Phamaly promotes Bryce Alexander to replace longtime artistic leader

Steve Wilson and Bryce Alexander. Photo by John Moore.
The retiring Steve Wilson, left, and his replacement, Bryce Alexander. Photo by John Moore.

Denver’s Phamaly Theatre Company, acclaimed for creating performance opportunities for hundreds of actors with disabilities, has named Bryce Alexander its new Artistic Director. 

Alexander, 25, hBryce Alexander Quoteas been with Phamaly for six years, most recently as Associate Artistic Director under Steve Wilson, who resigned after 14 years on Dec. 31.

“I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to deepen my relationship with our extraordinary company through the trust of the board, the staff, the performers and the community,” Alexander said. “Steve Wilson has built Phamaly’s reputation of high quality, professional theatre. I am humbled to succeed him and take Phamaly to the next level.”

DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson hired Alexander as his Assistant Director for White Christmas in 2012 and Just Like Us in 2013. “I am thrilled by Bryce’s appointment, having seen several productions he has directed,” said Thompson. Alexander also assisted Art Manke on the Theatre Company’s The Three Musketeers.

“I have no doubt that his energy, talent and deep commitment to Phamaly will help it reach new heights of artistic success and national acclaim,” Thompson added.

Phamaly has produced professional plays and musicals since 1989, cast entirely with performers who have physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. While the company now performs up to six productions a year, its primary offering each year is a Broadway musical staged at the Space Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. 

Bryce AlexanderWilson, who served on the search committee to find his own replacement, was overjoyed by the decision. “There is no one in whom I would place more confidence to lead Phamaly to the next level than Bryce,” he said. 

Phamaly Executive Director Chris Silberman said Alexander’s artistic talent and operational skills “have served as the glue for all of the many moving parts of this company.” He cited Alexander’s successful efforts to send Phamaly’s current production of The Fantasticks to Japan as part of a convention to advance the global independence of people with disabilities. The musical, directed by Alexander, opened with three weeks of performances at the Aurora Fox. It moves to the Arvada Center from Feb. 27-March 1 before heading to Osaka for a 10-day goodwill mission in March that will culminate with a performance in a 1,500-seat theatre. This will be the 25-year-old company’s first-ever international performance.

Alexander “turned the idea from an unachievable dream to a reality,” Silberman said.

Alexander, who lives in Westminster, graduated from Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, and earned his graduate degree in Theatre Performance from the University of Colorado in Boulder. His thesis was titled Applying Modern Disability Theory as an Actor and Director to Theatrical Texts of the Past and Present. He was an assistant director for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival for three summers. For Phamaly, he co-directed The Elephant Man and It’s a Wonderful Life and directed The Glass Menagerie and several children’s productions. 

“In many ways, Phamaly is the place where I truly learned to be an artist; a place that challenged my perceptions, encouraged my exploration and deepened my respect for our craft,” Alexander said. “To have the opportunity to lead this incredible organization forward, to continue our exceptional growth, to deepen our exploration of humanity – and our own understanding as a result – is a dream come true.”

Last year, Alexander interned under the retiring Guthrie Theatre Artistic Director Joe Dowling for its staging of My Fair Lady.

His disability-related experience includes working as a counselor at Adam’s Camp Colorado, and swim coach for Special Olympics Colorado.

For Phamaly, Alexander conceptualized and implemented a series of sensory-friendly performances that led to Phamaly recently having received a $14,000 award from the Arts Affinity Group of The Denver Foundation. Alexander also has had a hand in shaping Phamaly’s outreach and tour programming that has toured to Crested Butte, Colorado Springs and Wyoming. He came to Phamaly in 2009 as an intern.

“I have always found Bryce to be as wonderful with people as he is with details,” said frequent Phamaly Musical Director Donna Debreceni. “It’s great to have someone in his position who I can trust to take care of whatever is asked. And in this company, that could be about anything.” 

While Silberman said Alexander will direct many of Phamaly’s future shows, including this summer’s Cabaret at the DCPA, the Artistic Director position will be expanded to include artistic visioning and planning, as well as community engagement on a local and national level. Alexander’s three primary goals will be to serve a more broad population of actors with disabilities; to seek out new education opportunities for individuals with disabilities of all ages; and to engage the local theatre community and encourage more performance opportunities for actors with disabilities on stages outside of Phamaly’s.

“There are distinct challenges, but unmistakable achievements ahead as we expand our programming, enrich our audience experience, refine our messaging, and expound our impact,” Alexander said. “Phamaly is poised to become a national model for disability in the arts, and I am confident that the company will work together to further cement our place in the local, national, and international arts and disability communities.”

The selection of Alexander, Wilson added, “will leave the company in very good hands moving forward.”

Previous coverage of the Phamaly leadership change story:
Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson
Wilson resigns from Phamaly Theatre Company after 14 years
Wilson named 2014 Theatre Person of the Year

'The Fantasticks,' Directed by Bryce Alexander. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

‘The Fantasticks,’ directed by Bryce Alexander and featuring, from left, Stewart Caswell, David Wright and Jeremy Palmer, will be performed in Japan after an upcoming weekend at the Arvada Center. Photo by Michael Ensminger.