In 2018, the DCPA NewsCenter provided readers with more than 400 stories from the Colorado theatre community. Here are some of our favorites.
The DCPA hosted one of its largest community conversations on record Jan. 11, when about 100 local Latinx and others gathered to talk about the many possibilities and challenges presented by the Theatre Company’s world-premiere staging of American Mariachi. And while several admitted they came looking for a fight, 90 minutes of food, music and constructive conversation about the sustainability of the DCPA’s commitment to communities of color changed any clenched fists to handshakes. How did that happen?
The fence is long gone. But the image is forever seared into memories like a brand on cattle: A near-dead college student, his flesh so beaten, bloodied and intertwined with cord that the first passers-by mistook him for a scarecrow. Not an image you can tear down as easily as a fence. October 12 marked 20 years since University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was robbed, pistol-whipped, tortured and left to die — many believe, because he was gay. What’s changed since? Hate crimes were up 12 percent last year, Americans are bitterly divided along political lines and Wyoming remains one of five states without a single hate-crime statute. What better time, says BDT Stage Producer Michael J. Duran, to return to the scene of the crime? Not simply to relive the atrocity but to consider the remarkable dialogue that took place when Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project descended on Laramie a month after the killing, conducted interviews with dozens of its residents and turned what they said into the DCPA Theatre Company’s seminal world premiere play The Laramie Project.
Meet DCPA Teaching Artist Jeff Parker, who last summer performed for the first time with Denver’s internationally acclaimed Phamaly Theatre Company, which exists to create performance opportunities for actors with disabilities. He played Cinderella’s Prince in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, staged in the DCPA’s Space Theatre. Parker was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 18, and has been learning to live with his body’s enemy ever since. Parker is an accomplished performer with companies throughout Denver, but he says performing with Phamaly has been an experience like no other. “If you have a disability, a lot of companies try to hide it,” Parker said. “But Phamaly sees everyone as their authentic selves representing who they are as artists with their disabilities — and that was beautiful and empowering to me.”
Fun Home, the landmark, underdog Best Musical of 2015, was never supposed to even make it to Broadway. And yet now that the rights are newly available to theatre companies across the country, every state in the nation had at least one homegrown production scheduled in 2018. Colorado had three — in Golden, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. “That gives me goosebumps bigger than the Rockies,” said Boulder’s Liz Armstrong, who co-produced the Broadway musical that starred Colorado’s Beth Malone. The fact that Fun Home is not just coming to Colorado, but is now being made in Colorado, Malone said, “pleases me more than I can even express.”
At the 34th Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival, the prevailing color of the day was red, in support of thousands of Colorado teachers who were gathering down the road at the state Capitol building for a second day of rallies calling for better pay and more school funding. “Red for Ed” and “Kids First” were common chants along the short opening parade from the 16th Street Mall to the Denver Performing Arts Complex, where an estimated 3,400 students from kindergarten through high school performed more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets on 18 indoor and outdoor stages. An estimated 5,000 attended overall. “Today is absolutely a celebration of teachers,” said Denver Center President and CEO Janice Sinden. “Thousands of teachers across Denver Public Schools give every minute of every day to their students, and this is an opportunity celebrate their contributions to our educational system.”
From Mr. Clean to Mr. Majestyk and back again: Mark Devine made Colorado theatre history as a cast member in the Denver Center’s I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, the longest-running ongoing theatrical production ever in Colorado. After which he let his hair down — literally. Devine is the long-haired lead singer of a hilariously rocktastic 1970s tribute band called Mr. Majestyk’s 8-Track Revival, which has become quite popular playing rock opuses of the era. The frontman is Devine, who has made for himself a lovable character inspired in part by Jeff Spicoli, the long-haired free spirit from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But Devine’s rocktastic odyssey took another turn in September, when he returned to the theatrical stage for the first time in 10 years in the Arvada Center’s regional premiere of Mamma Mia! And Devine’s comeback has come at a cost: The hair he had cut just once since 2006.
When I was an uncertified, part-time high-school teacher, a student handed me a suicide note. I didn’t read it for five days. (She did not commit suicide.) But the clarion call to everyone in the audience of 13 Reasons Why is to listen vigilantly for what is often not often said out loud. 13 Reasons Why has shaken real (certified!) teachers to the core and, in some cases, left them defensive and angry. For weeks, embattled, overworked and underfunded educators have assailed the series for romanticizing suicide; for normalizing it as a viable option for impressionable viewers in similar crises. You know what I say? More than 5,240 teenagers attempt suicide every day. So let’s talk about it.
When the Denver Center Theatre Company debuted on New Year’s Eve 1979 with the first of three plays opening on successive nights, Tyne Daly was not yet Tyne Daly. She was a 33-year-old mother of two still three years from becoming a household name on TV’s “Cagney & Lacey.” Not that she was unknown, but Daly auditioned at an open casting call in Los Angeles alongside dozens of others hoping to win one of a whopping 40 jobs in the Denver Center’s inaugural resident company of actors who would christen the new $13 million Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex. Daly was cast as the lead in The Caucasian Chalk Circle and as Pip in Orson Welles’ Moby Dick Rehearsed. In this exclusive interview with the DCPA NewsCenter, Daly talks about her time in Denver, including the gala opening celebration that drew Lucille Ball, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Jimmy Stewart, Lynn Fontanne, Leonard Nimoy and Henry Fonda. “I had such a great time in Denver,” Daly said on the eve of her return to TV in CBS’ “Murphy Brown.” “I still count that experience as one of the really solid working times of my life where I learned an enormous amount from people who knew more than me.” But the story doesn’t end there: Daly also explains why she left the inaugural productions not long after they opened.
Charles Weldon worked in a cotton field until he was 17 – and a year later sang on the No. 1 hit song in America. He toured with James Brown and Fats Domino. He made his Broadway debut at 19 – less than a year after he took up acting – in a 1969 musical that starred none other than Muhammad Ali. He partied with Richard Pryor and made films with Denzel Washington, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson and Alfre Woodard. His three years as a cross-country truck driver became the basis for the DCPA Theatre Company’s world-premiere musical Mama Hated Diesels in 2010. The man who called himself the “accidental actor,” who performed with the Denver Center for 20 years, has died at 78.
For pioneering pilot Beverley Bass, September 11, 2001, began “as an extraordinarily beautiful morning” in Paris. She was uneventfully carrying 158 passengers 35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean with her feet propped up on the dash of her Dallas-bound Boeing when she got the call that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center. Concern turned to alarm 20 minutes later when the second tower was hit and with that came the word “terrorism.” “Things became very different at that time, obviously, in our cockpit,” Bass said on a recent visit to Denver. When U.S. airspace was immediately locked down, Bass was one of 38 commercial pilots ordered to land on the island of Newfoundland to wait out the confusion. What happened next became the basis for the Tony Award-winning musical Come From Away, which came to Denver in November. Bass has since come to think of Gander as a holy place. And of Come From Away, she says: “It is not the story of 9/11. It is the story of 9/12. It is a celebration of the best in humankind.”
Five of our best video reports:
- The making of groundbreaking Oklahoma! at the Denver Center
- Student playwrights take audiences to brave new worlds
- Disney’s Aladdin Get Up and Go program in Denver
- New Denver Center plays take center stage in Seattle, San Diego
- The Daniel Langhoff Celebration of Life
Some of our best production photos from shows we made in 2018:
Photos by Adams VisCom and Emily Lozow