Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience

Kent Thompson
Kent Thompson says one commonality in his new season is stories that in some way ‘examine the fallout when we are forced to make ethical, scientific or human choices.’ Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, who announced the DCPA Theatre Company 38th season on Tuesday, said selecting any new theatre season is equal parts “fun, terrifying and collaborative.” He takes recommendations from a variety of people, from audiences to community members to staff. “But in the end, my job is about providing the vision,” he said. And in the end, he admits, “the process is as much intuitive and instinctual as it is intellectual.”

Kent Thompson quoteThompson never schedules according to a chosen overall theme for any given season, but he said the upcoming nine-play slate he just announced does have at least one commonality, and it’s that “every story in some way examines the fallout when we are forced to make ethical, scientific or human choices.” That’s true from the season-opening The Glass Menagerie to the seasonal standard A Christmas Carol to two world premieres to the enduring musical The Secret Garden and everything in-between.

“Luckily the DCPA provides us with the space and the resources to guide artists to create theatrical experiences that stimulate, entertain and inspire our audiences and enrich the lives of the audiences, artists and communities we serve,” he said.

Here are five more thought-provoking observations from Thompson concerning the season just announced:

F1 Perspectivesor those who were rooting for American Mariachi, Jose Cruz González’s music-infused family story about a young Los Angelina who ventures into the male-dominated world of mariachi in the 1970s to help bring her mother back from dementia, Thompson said don’t read too much into it not being included in the upcoming season. “We are going to continue to develop that play this year, and we hope to bring to bring it back in a future season,” he said. 

2 PerspectivesOne highlight of the season will be Nick Dear’s Frankenstein, which premiered at the National Theatre in London in 2011, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as Victor Frankenstein and The Creature. As was the case in London, the not-yet cast Denver actors will alternate roles at each performance, allowing audiences to better see what makes man and monster both diverge and intersect. “It will be fascinating for audiences to see both,” Thompson said, “because when they did it in London, they found that each actor brought unique things to each role, and the relationship between the characters changed as the actors changed roles. The fabulous part about this script to me is answering the question: ‘Who is most human by the end of the evening – Victor or The Creature?’ ”

DCPA announces 2016-17 Theatre Company season

3 PerspectivesAnticipating concern from that might arise from the topical play The Christians, Thompson assured, “No character is made fun of, and no character is derided for their views.” In Lucas Hnath’s acclaimed – and button-pushing play – the pastor of a large evangelical church gets up one Sunday and has changed one of the core beliefs he’s been preaching and teaching to his congregation for years, sending shockwaves and reverberations throughout his membership. “This is really a story about what happens, both to yourself and to your followers, when you are a leader and you change a core belief, be it religious, political or spiritual. The Christians is an intimate look at the moments that define who we are and what we believe.” The Christians features a full choir at every performance.”

4 PerspectivesScheduling the national touring production of the most recent Tony Award-winning new play as a Theatre Company offering is unprecedented – although in 2009, the Denver Center did bring the touring production of August: Osage County to Denver as a Broadway subscription offering. It is rare today because not many Broadway plays tour anymore. After plays run their course in New York, the rights are typically made available to professional theatre companies around the country for them to self-produce. But because the widely hailed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is touring the country, that means no local theatre company will have the opportunity to self-produce the play for several years. And even then, this technologically groundbreaking winner of five 2015 Tony Awards will prove difficult for any theatre company to stage. The play essentially allows the audience to go inside the mind of a 15-year-old London boy who is exceptionally intelligent but ill-equipped to function in everyday life, and the play helps the audience experience the short-circuitry in his brain first-hand. When he falls under suspicion for killing his neighbor’s dog, he sets out on a dangerous journey to identify the true culprit. “If we could only do one play this season, this is the one I would want to do,” Thompson said. But because self-producing the play is not yet an option, the touring production offers the only opportunity for audiences to see the story way it was originally conceived. “This is the kind of play that I think the Theatre Company patrons will love to see,” said Thompson.

5 PerspectivesAs for his overall scheduling philosophy, Thompson said: “The core of our work at the Theatre Company is original productions ranging from the newest stories to the most enduring stories. But I also want to make clear that we are looking to do stories that are also told in a variety of forms and styles, from the absolutely most innovative to the most traditional storytelling. I seek no less than to open the hearts, minds, eyes and sometimes the souls of both audiences and artists in our community when they see a production here at the Theatre Company.”

And as for those who have asked “Will Shakespeare be back?” Thompson said emphatically, “yes.” And in a very real way, Shakespeare will be present on the 2016-17 season in the form of The Book of Will.

Sept. 9-Oct. 16: The Glass Menagerie, Ricketson Theatre
Sept. 30-Oct. 30: Frankenstein, Stage Theatre
Nov. 25-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol, Stage Theatre
Jan. 13-Feb. 26, 2017: The Book of Will, Ricketson Theatre
Jan. 27-Feb. 26, 2017: The Christians, Stage Theatre
Feb. 3-March 12, 2017: Two Degrees, The Jones Theatre
March 31-May 7, 2017: Disgraced, Ricketson Theatre
Apr 21-May 28, 2017: The Secret Garden, Stage Theatre
May 30-June 18, 2017: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Ellie

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