‘First, Do No Harm’ takes dance immersion down hospital hallways


Audiences will explore life and loss through the eyes of both the cared for and the caregivers

Tara Rynders, a dancer, actor and film artist who appeared in Off-Center’s 2016 Sweet & Lucky, is also a registered nurse at Rose Medical Center. And this month, she is combining her passions by presenting a unique new immersive dance performance that will be staged throughout her very own workplace.

Tara RyndersRynders describes First, Do No Harm as “an intimate journey of personal loss, love, life and death that takes the audience on a pendulum swing until collectively we reach the very core of our human condition, sharing an experience that shapes our interactions and the way we experience each other.”

Click here to contribute to the kickstarter campaign

Throughout the two-hour public performance, dancers, actors and musicians will guide audiences throughout the hospital where these themes will be explored through the eyes of the caregivers and the cared for.

First, Do No Harm is presented by The Clinic, created by Rynders as a year-long artist residency at the hospital. “We are shedding light on the growing rate of compassion fatigue, nurse burnout and post-traumatic stress through an entangled story of love, life, loss and grief, told through the perspectives of nurses, hospital liaisons and family members,” said Rynders, who has been employed at Rose Medical Center for the past decade.

“Though I have been a registered nurse for more than 14 years, being a patient for the first time made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to be a nurse,” she said. “I am inspired and passionate about bringing the arts into the hospital setting to give patients the best care possible so that they feel seen, heard, and cared for. I am inspired to use the arts to help educate nurses on how to experience the joy and beauty found daily in our profession.”

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

First, Do No Harm, inspired by personal accounts of health-care providers and patients, is written by Denver actor director and playwright Edith Weiss, who was Rynders’ castmate in Sweet and Lucky, and also will be a featured playwright in Off-Center’s upcoming evening of micro plays called Bite Size.

First, Do No Harm is co-directed by Rynders, Jadd Tank of Houston and Lia Bonfilio, another Sweet and Lucky castmate who is based out of New York City with Third Rail Projects.

“It has been really great to see how Sweet and Lucky connected us all, and now we are creating and collaborating with each other on new levels,” said Rynders, who is also married to Tim Rynders, bassist for the popular Colorado band The Knew.

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.


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‘First, Do No Harm.’ Photo by Adam Bove

The Clinic’s First, Do No Harm

  • Dates: October 18-28
  • Written by Edith Weiss
  • Performances 7 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays at Rose Medical Center, 4567 E. 9th Ave. (Use main entrance on Cherry Street.)
  • Performers: J. Akiyama, Maegan Keller, Jake Wherry, Olivia Dwyer, Rowan Salem,  Suzanna Wellens, Emma Acheson, Kristine Whittle, Hanna Brown, Lia Bonfilio, Sexton McGrath, Julie Rooney, Cortney McGuire, Tara Rynders, Kate Speer
  • Visit theclinicperformance.com for tickets
  • Please note all guests will be required to walk and stand for long periods of time. Note: Please wear comfortable shoes. Also note that you may be physically touched as an audience member. All shows are ADA accessible.

October in Colorado theatre: Your complete statewide listings

Love Never Dies Bronson Norris Murphy and Meghan Picerno. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Bronson Norris Murphy as The Phantom and Meghan Picerno as Christine Daaé in the Denver-bound touring production of ‘Love Never Dies.’ Photo by Joan Marcus.


Ben Griffin (Cat) and Melissa Morris (Jojo). Matt Gale Photograph

Ben Griffin and Melissa Morris in the Arvada Center’s ‘Seussical.’ Matt Gale Photograph

October 10-December 29: Arvada Center’s Seussical
6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

October 11-28: Springs Ensemble Theatre’s The Last Rabbit
1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 80909, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

October 12-November 18: BItSY Stage’s Aloha: Postcards from Polynesia
1137 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294, bitsystage.com (Admission is always free)

October 12-November 18: Midtown Arts Center’s The Roy Orbison Experience
In The Ballroom, 3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

October 13-November 10: Firehouse Theatre Company’s Love Alone
John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehousetheatercompany.com

October 14, 21 and 28: Firehouse Theatre Company’s An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe
John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehousetheatercompany.com

October 17-November 11: Local Theatre’s Paper Cut
The Carsen Theater at The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

October 18-November 11: Phamaly Theatre Company’s Harvey
At the The Olin Hotel Apartment in partnership with Senior Housing Options, Inc., 1420 Logan St., 303-575-0005 orphamaly.org

October 18-November 11: Cherry Creek Theatre’s My Name is Asher Lev
At the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-800-6578 or cherrycreektheatre.org

October 19-November 11: Evergreen Players’ The Dining Room
At CenterStage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.org

October 19-27: Longmont Theatre Company’s The Toxic Avenger
513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

October 23-28: National touring production of Love Never Dies
Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

October 23-November 18: Off-Center’s Bite-Size: An Evening of Micro Theatre
At BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St., 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

October 25-November 18: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s The Wolves
Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or boulderensembletheatre.org

October 25–28: TheatreWorks’ Lysistrata
Bon Vivant Theatre at the Ent Center, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

October 26-November 12: Over The River and Through the Woods
Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant St., 303-665-0955 or www.cctlouisville.org

October 27-November 24: OpenStage Theatre Company’s Frankenstein
Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 oropenstagetheatre.org

RDG Photography/Rachel Graham

Michelle Moore and Kelly Uhlenhopp in Vintage Theatre’s ‘Boston Marriage.’ Photo by Rachel Graham of RDG Photography.


Through October 20: Funky Little Theatre Company’s The Boys Next Door
Moving to 1367 Pecan Street, Colorado Springs, , 719-425-9509 or funkylittletheater.org

Through October 21: DCPA Theatre Company’s The Constant Wife
Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

Read more: The Constant Wife opens rehearsals with a surprisingly modern feel

Through October 21: Su Teatro’s Interview with a Mexican
At the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

Through October 21: Vintage Theatre’s The Kentucky Cycle, Parts 1 and 2
1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

Through October 21: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Shakespeare in Love
30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

Through October 21: TheatreWorks’ A Raisin in the Sun
Bon Vivant Theatre at the Ent Center, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

Through October 21: StageDoor Theatre’s Murder for Two
27357 Conifer Road, Conifer, 303-886-2819, 800-838-3006 or stagedoortheatre.org

Through October 27: The Bug Theatre’s Cannibal! The Musical
3654 Navajo St., 303-477-9984 or bugtheatre.info

Through November 3: BDT Stage’s I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

Through November 11: Arvada Center’s Educating Rita
6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

Through November 11: Midtown Arts Center’s West Side Story
3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

Through November 11: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s Mary Poppins
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

October 5-November 11: Vintage Theatre’s Boston Marriage
1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

Through November 25: Jesters Dinner Theatre’s Annie Get Your Gun
224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

Through December 16: DCPA Education’s Corduroy
Conservatory Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org



Angela Delfini Explains it All for You
This 60-minute, one-woman touring show created by Italian comic actress Angela Delfini and physical comedian John Towsen is a comedy with a serious theme: The role of humor and game-playing in our never-ending creation of self.
Oct. 18-20: Millibo Art Theatre, 1626 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321 or themat.org
Oct. 16-17: The People’s Building, 9995 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 1-800-838-3006 or angeladelfini.bpt.me

Aurora Fox
Oct. 19-20: Cabaret Series: Jake Mendes’ Songs to the Boys I Used to Date. True West Award winner Jake Mendes Aurora Fox’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch) has appeared at the Denver Center in Off-Center’s This is Modern Art and currently in DCPA Education’s Corduroy. Tickets $10-$22. 7:30 p.m. 9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org


Killer Wigs from Outer Space

Monday, Oct. 29: Killer Wigs from Outer Space. The Aurora Fox and an all-star cast will present the hair-raising rock opera Killer Wigs from Outer Space with proceeds benefiting the Denver Actors Fund. Killer Wigs from Outer Space, set in 1985, tells the story of a down-on-his-luck carnival worker named Orville who falls prey to a brain-eating parasite from outer space — with fabulous hair. This powerful alien transforms Orville into O, a rock star who becomes a prophet for peace and beauty. O must tackle true evil when confronted by a terrifying media tyrant who is poised to take over the world. Attendees are encouraged to B.Y.O.W. (Bring Your Own Wig) for the “Wig Out” dance party after the show! Music and Lyrics by David Nehls, with additional Lyrics by Zac Miller. Tickets $25. 7:30 p.m. 9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org

Avenue Theater
Comedy Sportz (weekends)
417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com

Denver Magic Show (every first Monday)
417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com

Benchmark Theatre’s Fever Dream Festival
October 19-28: This second annual live-theatre festival is a celebration of science fiction, fantasy and horror, all with chimerical themes. The lineup includes 15 plays (six full-lengths, three one-acts and six 10-minute shorts). Selected Colorado playwrights include Colette Mazunik, Ellen K. Graham, Luke Sorge and John Christopher Wolter. Actors Antonio Amadeo, Katherine Amadeo, Abby Apple Boes, MacKenzie Beyer, Sean Michael Cummings, Tresha Farris, Jason Garner, Damon Guerrasio, Erica Lee Johnson, Chas Lederer, Wade Livingston, Kate Poling, Ryan Omar Stack, Maggie Tisdale, Jason Valenzuela and Cameron Varner. 1560 Teller St., Lakewood, benchmarktheatre.com

Bas Bleu Theatre’s Tribute concert to Deb Note-Farwell
Saturday, October 27: The music of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong performed by Rekha Ohal and Leonard Barrett Jr. More on Deb Note-Farwell. 401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

Buntport Theater
Tuesday, October 16: The Great Debate pits teams of non-experts head-to-head, toe-to-toe, and often dumb-and-dumber in lively debates of the inconsequential. This month: Pumpkin spice or the Spice Girls.?717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

Wednesday, October 17: The Narrators is a monthly live storytelling show and podcast held every third Wednesday. 717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

Friday, October 19: Suit and Tie Comedy is an evening of comedians featuring Joel Vernon, Brandy Bryant, Andres Becerril, Caitie Hannan, Mike Langworthy and Mitch Jones. Presented by Cal Sheridan Presents at 717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or eventbrite.com

Wednesday, October 24: Colorado College Tiger Talks. Graduates of Colorado College (including Buntport Theater company members Erin Rollman and Evan Weissman) speak on the topic of “Beyond the Boundaries.” 717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or ourcc.coloradocollege.edu

Thursday, October 25: That’s What She Said is an evening of true storytelling with a twist: Stories by women. Read by men. Presented by The Women and Gender Center of the University of Colorado. 717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or thatswhatshesaidco.org

The Clinic’s First, Do No Harm
October 18-28: Tara Rynders, who appeared in Off-Center’s Sweet and Lucky, is also a registered nurse at Rose Medical Center. She is presenting a unique new immersive dance performance written by Denver’s Edith Weiss (Bite-Size) that will presented in the hospital and is open to the public. “We are highlighting the growing rate of compassion fatigue and nurse burnout through an entangled and intimate story of love, life, loss and grief, told through the perspectives of nurses, hospital liaisons and family members,” Rynders said. Throughout the two-hour performance, dancers, actors and musicians will guide participants throughout the hospital where these themes will be explored through the eyes of the caregivers and the cared for. Co-directed by Rynders, Jadd Tank and Lia Bonfilio. Performances 7 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays at Rose Medical Center, 4567 E. 9th Ave. (use main entrance on Cherry Street).  Visit theclinicperformance.com to learn more. (Please note: All guests will be required to walk and stand for long periods of time.Note: Please wear comfortable shoes. Also note that you may be physically touched as an audience member. All shows are ADA accessible.)

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
Thursday, November 1: An Evening with Paula Poundstone. 30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

University of Colorado College of Music honors Leonard Bernstein
Through Oct. 28: The University of Colorado Boulder College of Music will join a worldwide celebration of the late classical composer Leonard Bernstein as it puts on CU Bernstein at 100 in honor of his 100th birthday. Programming continues with the University of Colorado Boulder’s Eklund Opera Program’s presentation of West Side Story from Oct. 26-28 in Macky Auditorium. tickets.cupresents.org

The Dinner Detective
Weekends: The Dinner Detective is America’s largest interactive murder mystery dinner and comedy show with performances select Saturday nights at the following locations:

Tickets and more information available online at 866-496-0535 or thedinnerdetective.com

Source Theatre’s Monday! Monday! Monday! Cabaret
October 15: Sheryl McCallum, a cast member in the DCPA Theatre Company’s Oklahoma! is the host every third Monday for a cabaret program that promises “singers who will stir your soul!, poets who will lift your spirit and artists who will blow your mind.” Through November at Su Teatro, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 720-238-1323 or thesourcedenver.org

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Email any additions or corrections to jmoore@dcpa.org

It’s simple to Semple: Chairman leads by example with gift

Martin Semple_ Photo by John Moore

Martin Semple: ‘There was a recognition on the board that if we were going to ask the community to contribute, then we had to be leaders by contributing as much as we could as well.’ Photo by John Moore


Chairman Martin Semple and fellow Trustee Isabelle Clark respond to call from Denver Center’s first-ever public capital campaign

Denver Center for the Performing Arts Chairman Martin Semple is one of only a handful of people whose roots with the organization go back to before its official opening in 1979. Now his name will live into perpetuity alongside wife Jo Semple as namesakes of the Space Theatre lobby in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, it was announced today.

The Semples have made an undisclosed personal contribution toward “A Grander Opening,” the first public capital campaign in the Denver Center’s history. The four-year project will help fund the renovation of The Stage and Ricketson Theatres, their lobbies and some backstage support areas. Additionally, longtime DCPA Trustee Isabelle Clark will have a section in The Space Theatre named in memory of her late husband, Kennith Clark. Both gifts will be celebrated tonight (October 10) following a performance of the DCPA Theatre Company’s The Constant Wife.

“Frankly, my wife and I were both reluctant when we were asked if there were something we would like to put our names on,” said Semple. “We simply wanted to help. We wanted to give whatever we could to ensure this place that has brought us so much joy over our lifetimes will continue to be home to a world-class theatre company with world-class facilities.”

Semple has trumpeted 100 percent participation in the campaign from the 20-plus DCPA Board of Trustees, accounting for about $8 million to date. “There was a recognition on the board that if we were going to ask the community to contribute, then we on the board had to be leaders by contributing as much as we could as well,” he said.

A Grander Opening” is well on its way toward its overall goal. About $19 million will come from the city of Denver through voter-approved general obligation bonds, and the remainder from future contributions.

Semple, a partner in the Denver law firm of Semple, Farrington & Everall, has been the Denver Center’s legal representative since 1978, when he was recruited by founder Donald R. Seawell to handle dicey labor negotiations on the construction of the Boettcher Concert Hall.

He keenly remembers the DCPA’s weeklong opening festivities beginning on New Year’s Eve 1979 – and how lucky he was to bear witness to the first performance of the first DCPA Theatre Company play – The Caucasian Chalk Circle starring Tyne Daly.

“I knew I was extremely fortunate because that was all by invitation only, and I only got in because Peter Englund, who was the Managing Director at the time, called and asked if I wanted a ticket, and I said, ‘Absolutely,’ ” said Semple. “I had never heard of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, frankly, and I was blown away by the production. I thought it was as good as anything I had ever seen in New York or London. I just knew then that we had something really special here in Denver. I specifically remember reading articles in Time and Newsweek the next week saying this is one of the greatest theatre complexes in the United States. And now it’s time to restore it to its original glory.”

Isabelle Clark Quote Photo by John MooreClark, a native of Scotland, moved to Denver with her husband nearly 25 years ago. “Being a Brit, one of the first things that caught my eye was the red double-decker bus on the 16th Street Mall where tickets to the Denver Center and other arts organizations were being sold,” she said. “That very night I saw The Scarlet Letter, and that was it.”

Capital campaign envisions ‘A Grander Opening’ for DCPA

“The Denver Center is deeply appreciative of the generosity of Martin, Jo and Isabelle,” said DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden. “Not only do they give extensively of their time, but their financial support of this important effort will allow our spaces to accommodate our artists’ imaginations, inspire our students’ creativity and welcome our guests to stories that reflect their lives.”

Semple joined both the DCPA Board of Trustees and the Helen Bonfils Foundation Board of Trustees in July 2007 at the request of former CEO Daniel L. Ritchie. But as a 40-year subscriber, Semple has seen nearly all of the more than 400 plays and musicals staged by the Theatre Company since 1979.

Off-stage, Semple cites his greatest accomplishments to be successfully handling a variety of sensitive contract negotiations over the years. On-stage, he still ranks The Caucasian Chalk Circle as his favorite performance.

“Without question,” he says. “It just hit me big-time.” Also on his list are seeing Mercedes Ruehl star in Medea, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane, the Theatre Company’s first of many plays written by bloody Irish dramatist Martin McDonagh. Perhaps because that particular playwright hits close to home. Semple was born and raised in County Tipperary in a town called Thurles, which is halfway between Cork and Dublin. “Former Artistic Director Donavan Marley often referred to the Martin McDonagh plays as ‘The Martin Semple Plays,’ ” Semple said with a laugh.

Semple graduated from St. Patrick’s College in Dublin and earned law doctorates from Catholic University in Washington D.C. and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His wife is from a fourth-generation Denver native.

Tyne Daly recalls her short and sweet Denver opening

“Jo and I are delighted to be part of this effort to preserve these great venues for future generations,” Semple said. “This is one of the great organizations in the world, and ’A Grander Opening’ will help us exceed accessibility standards and equip our spaces with new technological advances so that we can continue to provide world-class theatre experiences that are second to none.”

Semple considers his financial contribution, and his lifetime of service to the Denver Center, to be labors of love. Clark feels the same.

“All these years later, I am so very proud to be a small part of this Tony-winning Theatre Company,” Clark said. “For four decades, this incredible company of passionate and talented individuals has entertained nearly 6 million people with thought-provoking plays and heart-warming musicals. I am delighted to be able to honor Kennith, and this amazing organization, with my gift to the capital campaign.”

William Dean Singleton on legacy, promises and a theatre named in his honor

Gifts announced to date also include those by Marvin and Judi Wolf to rename The Stage Theatre; William Dean Singleton to rename The Ricketson Theatre; and Robert and Judi Newman to rename The Conservatory Theatre in honor of the DCPA’s late President, Randy Weeks. For ongoing updates and opportunities, please visit denvercenter.org/GranderOpening.

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.


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Donna Bryson: How a black ‘Oklahoma!’ is an even more deeply American story

‘Oklahoma!’ continues through October 14 in the Denver Center’s Stage Theatre.


The ending of the musical serves as an ominous foreshadowing to the struggles black Americans would face in coming decades

While hiking along the Colorado-Oklahoma border this summer, my daughter, Thandi, stepped across the state line and, along with our guide and a few of the cornier members of our tour group, belted out a rousing “Oklahoma!”

The musical is a family favorite. We have many times watched our DVD of the 1998 Royal National Theatre production with Hugh Jackman as Curly. We have that audio recording on CD as well as a recording of the 1943 Broadway cast.

So, I know the story. I knew Laurey was an orphan. But that biographical background meant little to me until we saw the Oklahoma! stage production at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts that DCPA artistic director Chris Coleman set in an early 20th century African-American town.

I wondered about the fate of Laurey’s parents, a question that had not crossed my mind when I saw other productions. Had the missing mother and father been victims of racist violence? And what of Aunt Eller, who had surely been born in slavery? Was Laurey her biological niece, or a child she loved as her own after her own were sold away? Through this lens, I saw new nuances in Laurey’s attachment to her aunt and her difficulties forming other ties.

Oklahoma! ends with a wedding and a death, as victory and violence have so often been twinned in American history. By setting the story in an African-American town, Coleman makes the show even more deeply American.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is set in 1906, 41 years after the end of the Civil War and a year before Oklahoma became a state. At the time, 50 all-black towns were home to 137,000 African-Americans in the Oklahoma territory. Such refuges existed across America, including in Dearfield, founded in 1910 75 miles northwest of Denver.

The death at the end of the show was ominous, foreshadowing the likely end to the town and the struggles black Americans would face in coming decades.

In real life, some black communities, including Dearfield, withered because of economic difficulties exacerbated by racism. Some were destroyed in deadly attacks by white supremacists – Greenwood, Oklahoma, in 1921, and Rosewood, Florida, in 1923.

As I watched the DCPA show, I was reminded of a conversation I’d had earlier in the day with an investment director for a Denver foundation that supports families in some of our neediest neighborhoods. The director is African-American and has family roots in Five Points, a historically black Denver neighborhood now being transformed by gentrification. Her family lost their Five Points home.

“That’s the trauma,” she told me. “There’s an insecurity about where you’re going to live. And even when you set community, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to stay.”

In the DCPA production, Coleman left it to his choreographer Dominique Kelly to give us a hint of the future. The reprise of the showstopping title song is introduced with stepping, a dance form linking African-Americans to Africa. It was a percussive, brilliant tribute to a culture’s resiliency. Perhaps Curly, Laurey and Aunt Eller’s town did not endure. But their descendants will find a way to thrive.

About the Author:

Journalist Donna Bryson was born in Florida, grew up in California, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern University and has reported from four continents. She is currently a freelance journalist living in Colorado with her husband and daughter. Her work has been published by, among others, The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Beast, Equal Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, The New York Times, Stars and Stripes, VICE and The Wall Street Journal.

OklahomaOklahoma! Ticket information

  • Written by: Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics). Based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs. Original Dances by Agnes de Mille
  • Dates: Through October 14
  • Where: Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
  • Information: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Groups: Call 800-641-1222

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


Matthew Shepard: 20 years later, the killing hasn’t stopped

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‘The Laramie Project’ reading at BDT Stage on October 8. Photo by John Moore. Click here to see a complete gallery of photos from the night.

Colorado theatre companies will stop to reflect on brutal murder that led to Denver Center premiere of The Laramie Project

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.

Photo by Christine Fisk.

And yet, the curious still venture to the outskirts of Laramie, looking for the spot where 21-year-old University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was robbed, pistol-whipped, tortured and left to die — many believe, because he was gay.

Twenty years later, Wyoming remains one of only five states without a single hate-crime statute. The Matthew Shepard Foundation estimates that 61 percent of all hate crimes are not reported to police. And in just one more year, Matthew Shepard will have been dead as long as he was alive.

Two decades after the hate crime that galvanized the nation and thousands more around the globe, the country is extraordinarily fragmented across inter-group lines. Americans are bitterly divided both in their homes and in voting booths. They are more polarized in their beliefs on social issues, and more deeply cocooned from those with opposing views.

No better time, says BDT Stage Producer Michael J. Duran, to return to the scene of the crime. Not simply to relive the savage 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.

BDT Stage is one of at least three Colorado theatre organizations that are marking the 20th anniversary of the October 12, 1998, murder of Matthew Shepard with various public gatherings this month. Duran has assembled some of the area’s top actors, including the DCPA’s Sam Gregory (A Christmas Carol) and Wayne Kennedy (The Constant Wife) alongside journalists Chris Parente, Greg Moody and Eden Lane, among many others, to read The Laramie Project on Monday, October 8, with proceeds benefiting three area nonprofits.

Photo coverage: Our best photos from the BDT Stage reading of The Laramie Project

“In light of the current political climate, at a time when hate crimes are up 12 percent from last year, and when hate rhetoric is so prevalent, it just felt like we needed to stand up as artists and say something,” said Duran. The Laramie Project, which premiered in the DCPA’s Ricketson Theatre in February 2000 and since has been staged in theatres and schools around the world, used interviews and courtroom transcripts to provide a wrenching window into the impact the murder had on the small university town of Laramie 125 miles due north of Denver. The play builds to a shocking moment of forgiveness when Shepard’s father, Dennis, is asked by a judge to weigh in on the sentencing of co-defendant Aaron McKinney: “I give you life,” Dennis Shepard tells McKinney, “in the memory of one who no longer lives.”

That speech, Duran said, “is the whole reason for doing this now.”

Andy Paris in The DCPA Theatre Company’s in 2000. ‘The Laramie Project’ Photo by Dan McNeil.

Elsewhere, The Theatre Company of Lafayette is fully staging The Laramie Project from October 5-14. And on October 7 in Fort Collins, a touring, Texas-based choral ensemble called Conspirare will present Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson’s compassionate musical response to the Shepard murder. His three-part fusion oratorio, which was made into an album that received a Grammy nomination, incorporates a variety of musical styles. The Washington Post called the impact of the work “immediate, profound and, at times, overwhelming.”

The Laramie Project was made into a 2002 HBO film and, to mark 10 years, Kaufman and his team produced a new epilogue that was read by more than 150 theatre companies on October 12, 2008. One such gathering, which included the governors of Colorado and Wyoming, was conceived by Stephen Seifert and directed by Rick Barbour at the University of Denver. The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later included a chilling new interview with McKinney in which he bluntly told Tectonic company member Greg Pierotti that “Matt Shepard needed killing. I don’t have any remorse. The night I did it, I did have hatred for homosexuals.”

Denver School of the Arts staged ‘The Laramie Project,’ directed by DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous, in 2015. Photo by Chris Howard.

Barbour, not coincidentally, had been the Production Manager on the world-premiere staging of The Laramie Project for the DCPA Theatre Company.

At first, Barbour remembers thinking The Laramie Project was not much more than an interesting theatrical experiment these visiting artists from New York were putting together in a DCPA rehearsal studio. It was a very different kind of creative process, he said, watching Tectonic company members cobble their interviews and transcripts into a theatrical production that would rely mostly on the actors directly addressing the audience.

“We have hosted lots of guest artists from other places over the years,” said Barbour, now an Associate Professor in the University of Denver Theatre Department. “They were just doing their thing and we didn’t know what was going to come out of it.”

But as the opening approached, Barbour remembers realizing, “This is beautiful and extraordinary in its simplicity. I loved that it gave you this entire community of people from cops to cowboys to clergy testifying to what they saw and felt. And I loved that it was based on the actual words of actual people who had suffered a double whammy to their community: First, this hideous trauma that took place in their town, and then the media tsunami that followed it.”

Barbour saw first-hand what happened when Denver Center audiences, many with a direct connection to Laramie or the murder, first saw the play in 2000.

‘The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later’ was presented at the University of Denver in 2008.

“They experienced the unmistakable truth of how that murder affected people’s lives,” said Barbour, whose next assignment will be directing Lauren Gunderson’s Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley this December for the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. “Theatre can do that, and when it happens, it is really powerful. Theatre gives us a chance for catharsis. When you solicit and honor multiple voices from the community by allowing them to talk about what this tragedy meant to them, that gives a strong invitation to everyone in the audience to empathize with what happened.”

And Barbour says we need the kind of dialogue Duran will be offering on Monday in Boulder more than ever.

From 2000: Playbill announces Denver Center premiere of The Laramie Project

“We’re living right now in such a completely fractured series of echo chambers that people are vigilantly protecting and not wanting to step out of,” Barbour said. “Events like The Laramie Project give us an opportunity to deal with trauma in a roomful of people who don’t necessarily feel the same way we do.”

And they not only keep Shepard’s memory alive, Barbour said. They honor other victims as well.

The Laramie Project. Nick Sugar. Photo by John Moore

‘The Laramie Project’ reading at BDT Stage on October 8. Pictured: Nick Sugar. Photo by John Moore

“I’m not sure that Matthew’s horrible death is necessarily any more significant than the thousands of others who have suffered wrongful and tragic deaths as well,” Barbour said. “This one just received more attention. The question that haunts me about Matthew Shepard’s murder is that what happened to him has happened to so many others. And so to me, this play isn’t only about this particular, single event. It’s about all of them.”

What The Laramie Project is not, said Nanci Van Fleet, director of Theatre Company of Lafayette’s upcoming staging, is ancient history.

“The Laramie Project is about the murder of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered because of his sexuality. And in our political climate, the important message of this play is just as relevant today,” Van Fleet said. “This play explores the depths to which humanity can sink – and the heights of compassion that humans are capable of.”

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.

Matthew Shepard Remembered Throughout Colorado:

Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

Conspirare: Considering Matthew Shepard in Fort Collins

  • Presented by LC Live and Colorado State University
  • 6:30 p.m. Sunday, October 7
  • Lincoln Center Performance Hall, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins
  • Call 970-484-5237 or go to lctix.com
  • Tickets $14-$28

The Laramie Project in Lafayette

  • Presented by Theatre Company of Lafayette
  • By Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project
  • Directed by Nanci Van Fleet
  • October 5-14
  • 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
  • At Lafayette Arts Hub, 420 Courtney Way, Lafayette
  • Tickets $13-$16
  • Call 1-800-838-3006 or go to tclstage.com

The Laramie Project: A Community Reading in Boulder


  • Archie Archuleta
  • John Ashton
  • Mark Collins
  • Kaila Coleman
  • Jerry Cunningham
  • Giana Giraldi
  • Sam Gregory
  • Tim Howard
  • Wayne Kennedy
  • Abigail Kochevar
  • Eden Lane
  • Chas Lederer
  • Sue Leiser
  • Ali King Meyers
  • Greg Moody
  • Chris Parente
  • Matthew D. Peters
  • Kristi Pike
  • Tyrell Rae
  • Robert Michael Sanders
  • Fiona Small
  • Philip Sneed
  • Nick Sugar
  • Roark Thornberry
  • Megan Van de Hey
  • Emily Van Fleet
  • Lisa Young

Helen R. Murray is flexing her muscle at Aurora Fox

New Aurora Fox Executive Producer Helen R. Murray makes her Colorado directorial debut with ‘Songs for a New World’ featuring Colorado actors, from left, Leiney Rigg, Randy Chalmers, Leonard Barrett Jr. and Sarah Rex. Photo by Christine Fisk.

‘It shouldn’t feel scary to come to your theater,’ says the new Executive Producer who isn’t remotely interested in telling the same old stories

When Helen R. Murray announced her departure from The Hub Theatre she co-founded in Fairfax, Virginia, to become the new Executive Producer of the city-owned Aurora Fox Arts Center, one reporter lamented that the Washington D.C. performing-arts community was losing one of its visionary artistic directors.

Aurora Fox. Photo by John Moore.

But Murray was looking to step out of the indie theater scene and into a job where, she said, “I would have a little broader programming muscle.”

You might not have thought that becoming the chief administrator of a city-owned arts facility with strict financial oversight would be that place. But despite its bureaucratic arteries, The Aurora Fox has been long known as a proud purveyor of risky and non-traditional programming that often amplifies underserved voices. Recent years have brought mainstage titles ranging from Porgy and Bess to Black Elk Speaks to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, each telling African-American, Native American and transgender stories, respectively.

But no one could have predicted just how emphatically Murray would introduce herself to Denver-area theatre audiences with her first season out of the gate:

  • Now through October 14: Songs for a New World: A contemporary theatrical song cycle by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years) that is “neither musical play nor revue,” with no consistent characters or storyline. Directed by Murray in her Colorado debut.
  • October 29: Killer Wigs from Outer Space, a new musical about a rock-n-roll prophet of peace on an epic journey to save our world. To be staged as a one-night-only benefit (and Halloween dance party!) for The Denver Actors Fund.
  • 23-Dec. 23: Twist Your Dickens: Second City’s interactive and decidedly adult send-up of A Christmas Carol.
  • 18-Feb. 10, 2019: Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies: A searing look at being a young black teenager in America today by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm.
  • 22-March 17, 2019: Life Sucks: Aaron Posner’s contemporary reworking of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya as a group of sassy old friends grappling with life’s thorniest questions.
  • March 8-24, 2019: The Happiest Place on Earth: One actor plays all the roles in this story of one family’s reckoning with the death of their patriarch.
  • April 5-May 12, 2019: Caroline, or Change: Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s epic civil-rights musical about a black maid working for a middle-class Jewish family in 1963 Louisiana.

It is a season clearly stamped with Murray’s imprimatur: It’s challenging, subversive — and only one title (Songs for a New World) has been staged before by a Colorado theatre company. Which makes it an artistic director’s dream — and a marketer’s nightmare.

“When I interviewed for this job, I didn’t pull any punches about what I was interested in programming,” Murray told the DCPA NewsCenter. “I outright said to them: ‘This is what I want to do.’ I wanted to go somewhere where I could just be myself and bring important stories of our day directly to the community of that area. And they said, ‘Yes.’ ”

Read more: Aurora Fox ushers in daring new era with Caroline, Or Change

The Fox is the rare company that has no official Artistic Director. As Executive Producer, Murray is essentially in charge of all artistic and financial decisions, and she answers to Gary Margolis, the Cultural Services Division Manager of Aurora’s Library and Cultural Services Department. The Fox operates on a $1 million annual budget, of which $400,000 is her actual production budget.


Her first season, Murray hopes, signals to audiences that The Fox will be a home for interesting and varied stories. “I really want to build a level of trust with our audiences,” she said. “I hope they come to realize they can find something for themselves in every season. And that while some titles will feel safe and others will feel like more of a risk, if they come to the safe ones and see how well we’ve done them, I hope they will feel inclined to come back for the riskier ones.”

Murray took over a Fox that was mired in confusion and financial disarray after the May 2017 resignation of longtime leader Charles Packard, who cited budget cuts and the growing difficulty of juggling his competing role as both an artist and arts administrator for a city-owned performing-arts facility for his decision to step down. Murray was clearly not deterred.

When she first looked at The Fox job, Murray was intrigued by the growing East Colfax arts district that includes The Fox, her own theatre’s growth potential and the diversity of the neighborhood surrounding The Fox about 15 minutes due east of downtown Denver.

Read more: Charles Packard leaving Aurora Fox after 19 years

“They were already doing some exciting programming here under Charles Packard, so it was clear I wasn’t going to have to twist anybody’s arm to program in my own voice,” Murray said. “The first show I saw at The Fox when I came out here was Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and it was just so wonderful. The talent level was high, and that made me feel really good about my decision to move here. I thought to myself, ‘If this is what I have to work with here, then this is a great place to come to.’ ”

And the lure of the great Western outdoors certainly made her decision easier. After all: D.C. is not just a metaphorical swamp, she said. It is literally built on a swamp.

Helen R. Murray in rehearsal for ‘Songs for a New World. Photo by Christine Fisk.

“The air is cleaner out here, and there are all those beautiful mountains to hike,” said Murray, a mother of three who already has one Colorado 14er under her belt. “This is better. What can I say? I’m just a huge nature chick.”

Now that she is on the clock in Aurora, Murray said, “I’ve quickly come to love The Fox, and that is in large part due to the staff,” referring to Technical Director Brandon Case, Production Manager Jen Orf and Patron Services Manager Beau Bisson among a full-time staff of six. Murray’s first full-time hire was naming popular Denver actor Steven J. Burge (DCPA’s An Act of God and First Date) as Marketing and Development Specialist.

“This is just such a great group of people,” she said. “They’re so passionate about The Fox, and they care so much.”

As for her assessment of the community she has just joined, Murray is somewhat conflicted. She has reached out to say hello to most of the metro area’s artistic leaders, and she has been taking in plays and musicals around town most every free theatregoing night.

“I am trying to get to know everyone because I come from a theater community in D.C. where the theater ecology was really healthy,” she said. “We all looked out for each other. We made a habit of lending a hand whenever we could. It was really hard to leave that theater community because of how tight they are, from the largest houses on down to the tiniest.

“Since I have come here, I will say there is so much good intention. Everyone has been so welcoming. It makes me happy to be here.”

But it’s not the same.

“The big thing I find that’s missing here is there are no healthy MFA programs,” Murray said. “I’m used to having a pipeline of young artists coming into the scene at the MFA level because that’s where you find your young playwrights, designers and assistant directors. MFA programs feed into a community in a really healthy way. They make everybody up their game.”

There is also, she said, a huge lack of female directors and directors of color in this theatre community.

“After our first round of submissions for the season, I turned to my Production Manager and said, ‘Where are the women and the people of color?’ ” Murray said.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Murray’s immediate priorities include plans to reimagine and expand the company’s “Little Foxes” education program. But her driving overall goal, she said, will be addressing what she says is the biggest challenge now facing artistic leaders all over the country.

“In our current climate, regular people on the street don’t think to go to the theater anymore,” she said. “Theater has become a niche art form. The price of a theater ticket and a movie ticket these days is not that far apart. But people have no problem going to a movie that looks terrible rather than come to a play that looks awesome. And so I think we really need to impress upon our communities that they are welcome in our theatre homes. It shouldn’t feel scary to come to your theater. We have to reach our communities and let them know that live theatre is something they can be a part of.”

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.

‘Still Life with Rocket.’ Photo courtesy Theater Alliance.

Helen R. Murray: In the Spotlife

Aurora Fox Executive Producer Helen R. Murray, originally from Marin City, California, is the co-Founder and former Artistic Director of The Hub in Fairfax, Virginia, where she started the Emerging Writers and New Play Festival. She is also a director and playwright. One play she wrote, Redder Blood, won the 2016 Jewish Play Project playwriting contest. She studied at Virginia Tech.

  • When’s the last time you saw a greatness play out in front of you? I was just completely torn to pieces — in the best way — by the book All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Theater-wise, I recently saw Still Life with Rocket by Mollye Maxner at Theater Alliance in Washington D.C. It was an immersive theatre experience as if you actually walked through the home of the people you are about to see. The movement was half-dance, half-theater, but it didn’t feel like you were at some avant-garde piece. You felt entrenched in the experience. It felt so honest in its delivery, and it was not pretentious in any way. The movement work was stunning. The acting was stunning. The story drew you in. It was so heartbreaking and so brave.
  • Five (or so!) of your favorite playwrights? I love Charles Mee‘s work. He is amazing. I adore Lauren Yee (DCPA’s The Great Leap). Sheila Callaghan is really high on my list. Philip Dawkins is a great love, as are Adam Bock and Jordan Harrison and Sarah Ruhl.
  • What’s playing on your Spotify? Right now, it’s a healthy mix of Leon Bridges and Rayland Baxter.


Songs for a New World: Ticket information

‘Songs for a New World,’ from left: Leonard Barrett Jr. and Sarah Rex. Photo by Christine Fisk.

Songs for a New World is the first musical written by Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown. The piece is a ‘theatrical song cycle’ that explores the moment of no return when making major decisions. Brown’s uplifting and moving collection of songs and stories takes us everywhere from the deck of a 1492 Spanish sailing ship, to a ledge fifty-seven stories above Fifth Avenue in New York City. The stories are told by four actors, each playing multiple characters who, when faced with a life changing moment, can only choose to step boldly into the future.

  • Presented by the Aurora Fox Arts Center, 9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora
  • Through Oct. 14
  • Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • Written by Jason Robert Brown
  • Directed by Helen R. Murray
  • Musical Direction by David Nehls
  • Cast: Sarah Rex, Leonard Barrett, Jr., Randy Chalmers and Leiney Rigg
  • Performances 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
  • Tickets: 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org


‘Miscast’ caps remarkable month for Denver Actors Fund

Broadway veteran Candy Brown performs from ‘Sunset Boulevard’ at ‘Miscast 2018’ on September 17 at the Mizel Arts and Cultural Center. Click here to go to our complete photo gallery. All photos are downloadable and may be freely used on social media. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Irreverent fundraiser raises more than $6,000 for nonprofit that provides medical relief to Colorado theatre artists

Miscast, a popular annual community-wide performance held September 17 at the Mizel Arts and Cultural Center, raised $6,106 for the Denver Actors Fund, which provides financial and practical relief when members of the Colorado theatre community find themselves in situational medical need.

In just four years, this grassroots nonprofit has distributed more than $270,000 in direct aid to local artists — $160,000 in the past year alone.

‘Miscast’ co-hosts Steven J. Burge and Shannan Steele. Photo by John Moore.

Twenty local actors performed in roles they would never normally be cast to portray. This year’s co-hosts were popular local actors Shannan Steele and Steven J. Burge. Miscast is produced by Robert Michael Sanders, who has presented the show in its entirety for straight five years as his personal contribution to The Denver Actors Fund.

Since 2014, Sanders’ Miscast efforts have generated $26,117 for the grassroots nonprofit.

Miscast came just eight days after a new nonprofit called Project Careaoke hosted a karaoke-themed fundraiser for The Denver Actors Fund that raised more than $34,689 on September 9 at The Venue in northwest Denver.

Photo gallery: Miscast 2018

The evening included a variety of comic and poignant performances, including Denver actor and teacher Candy Brown, whose six Broadway credits include the original productions of Chicago and Pippin. Brown, who is African-American, chose to sing “With One Look” as Nora Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. In another highlight, gender-neutral performer K. Woodzick, founder of the Non-Binary Monologues Project, fulfilled a longtime dream by performing “I Want to Be a Producer” as Leo Bloom from The Producers.

The hosts also engaged audiences in participatory games including Match Game and Two Truths and a Lie. As guests entered the Mizel Center, they were asked if they wanted to be entered into a drawing to participate in the on-stage games. Those who did paid $5 for the chance to play.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

In the crowd of nearly 200 were several recent beneficiaries of Denver Actors Fund grants, including Performance Now actor Sue Thompson, whose baby passed away when she was 8 months pregnant; Arvada Center actor Abner Genece, who was nearly killed with his son when their stopped car was hit from behind by a moving semi on a Wyoming highway; and Faith Ford, who will be undergoing surgery next month after a recent diagnosis of thyroid cancer. She is currently featured in Town Hall Arts Center’s production of American Idiot.

Many individuals and area theatre companies contributed more than $2,000 in prizes for the event. Participating companies included Denver Center Broadway, Arvada Center, Aurora Fox,  Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Cherry Creek Theatre, Creede Repertory Theatre, Miners Alley Playhouse, Midtown Arts Center, Town Hall Arts Center and Vintage Theatre.

The Denver Center donated four tickets to the upcoming national touring production of The Phantom of the Opera sequel Love Never Dies. DAF supporters Brian and Becky Trampler donated their own two orchestra tickets to the upcoming touring production of Dear Evan Hansen. Local playwright playwright Jeff Neuman donated four tickets to The Denver Post Pen & Podium series he hosts. Headshot photographers Jeremy Rill and Rachel D. Graham donated portrait sessions.

Earlier in the day, the Denver Actors Fund voted to add Northern Colorado performer and presenter Kenny Moten to its Board of Directors. Moten is the owner of Narrative Creative Consulting in Fort Collins.

The Denver Actors Fund primarily works to reimburse Colorado theatre artists for medical expenses not covered by insurance. In addition, a team of volunteers provides practical services to those recovering from medical procedures ranging from meals to transportation to cleaning, pet care and more. Any theatre artist living in Colorado who participates in the making of a live theatre production on or off any legitimate stage in the state is eligible for DAF relief for the ensuing five years. For more information on the Denver Actors Fund and its services, or to donate, go to DenverActorsFund.Org.

The cast and crew of ‘Miscast 2018.’ Photo by John Moore.

Miscast 2018:

Steven J. Burge
Shannan Steele


  • Christopher K.Boeckx, ‘Never Enough’ from the film The Greatest Showman
  • Candy Brown, ‘With One Look’ from Sunset Boulevard
  • Anna Maria High, updated medley from Always, Patsy Cline, with Avery Anderson
  • K. Woodzick, ‘I Wanna Be a Producer’ from The Producers
  • Cast of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s upcoming production of  The Wolves performing a scene from Glengarry Glen Ross: Hannah Haller, Lois Shih, Tara Kelso, Erika Mori and Maire Higgins. Directed by Adrian Egolf and adapted by Luke Sorge.
  • LuAnn Buckstein, Suzanne Nepi, Arlene Rapal and Lisa Young, ‘Not Dead Yet’ from Spamalot
  • David Nehls, ‘Bill Bailey’ from Showboat
  • Jale Mendes, ‘Push da Button’ from The Color Purple
  • Mark Pergola, ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ from The Little Mermaid’

Upcoming opportunities to support Denver Actors Fund:

Miners Alley Playhouse, Monday, September 24: Miners Alley Playhouse has designated the Monday, Sept. 24 performance of Lungs as a fundraiser for The Denver Actors Fund. Lungs follows a couple through the surprising lifespan of their relationship as they grapple with questions of family, change, hope, betrayal, happenstance and the kind of pain you can only cause someone you love. Featuring the husband-and-wife acting team of Adrian Egolf and Luke Sorge. Written by Duncan Macmillan. 7:30 p.m. at 1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

Theatre Or, Thursday, September 27: Theatre Or’s Industry Night for the play Oh My God! by Anat Gov (a play about God coming to Earth for therapy) will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, in the Pluss Theatre at the Mizel Arts And Cultural Center, 350 S. Dahlia St. Tickets are $18, with half going to the DAF. Call 303-316-6360.
Athena Project, September 28-30: Sarah Bierstock’s drama Honor Killing, selected from among 250 scripts to be developed by the Athena Project (which exists to tell stories written by women), tells the tale of a New York Times reporter investigating the “honor killing” of a young Pakistani woman by her own family. The play addresses cultural bias, technology and the limits of ethical reporting. As part of the Denver Actors Fund’s ongoing, community-wide “Tap Shoe Initiative, Athena has created two signature company shoes to collect change at all remaining performances. Vote for your favorite show with your donated dollars. At the end of the run, the audience favorite will become Athena’s “Shoe for Good” moving forward. Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Cultural Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., athenaprojectarts.org

BDT Stage, Monday, October 8: BDT Stage has designated The Denver Actors Fund as one of three beneficiaries from an important, 20th anniversary reading of The Laramie Project, featuring top actors such as Sam Gregory, Nick Sugar and Tim Howard, and cameos including TV personalities Greg Moody, Chris Parente and Eden Lane. 6:15 p.m. $5 suggested donation. 5501 Arapahoe Ave., in Boulder, 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

Aurora Fox, Monday, October 29: The Aurora Fox and an all-star cast will present the hair-raising rock opera “Killer Wigs from Outer Space” with proceeds benefiting the Denver Actor’s Fund. “Killer Wigs From Outer Space,” set in 1985, tells the story of a down-on-his-luck carnival worker named Orville who falls prey to a brain-eating parasite from outer space — with fabulous hair. This powerful alien transforms Orville into O, a rock star who becomes a prophet for peace and beauty. O must tackle true evil when confronted by a terrifying media tyrant who is poised to take over the world. Attendees are encouraged to B.Y.O.W. (Bring Your Own Wig) for the “Wig Out” dance party after the show! Music and Lyrics by David Nehls, with additional Lyrics by Zac Miller. Tickets $25. 7:30 p.m. 9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org


Editor’s note: The Denver Actors Fund was founded by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore

#SINCERELY, ME: Greg Moody’s letter to ‘Dear Evan Hansen’

Ben Levi Ross and the Company of the First North American Tour of Dear Evan Hansen. Photo by Matthew Murphy. 2018

Ben Levi Ross and the Company of the First North American Tour of Dear Evan Hansen. Photo by Matthew Murphy. 2018

After a lifetime in front of screens and stages, CBS4’s Critic-At-Large says: ‘I had, quite frankly, never seen anything like this show’

Like many of you, I had no idea what to expect of Dear Evan Hansen when I first sat down in the Music Box Theatre in New York City. I cadged a couple of house seats, told by the manager that they had been pulled from a celebrity couple just to give to me. Who the celebrities were, I have no idea.

I just hoped they were celebrities I didn’t like.

I attended simply because I knew Dear Evan Hansen not only would be the opener of the 2018-19 DCPA Broadway season, but also would start its national tour in Denver.

I should see it. So, I went. Otherwise, I would have gone to The Great Comet of 1812.

Sometimes, friends, you just luck into it.

I never expected to be as touched, emotionally undone and deeply affected as I turned out to be.

The characters, the story, the depth, the emotional insight, the music, the humor, the dramatic impact resonated across 60 years of theatregoing. I had, quite frankly, never seen anything like this show.

Yes, it is that different. It is that powerful. It is that thought-provoking, life-affirming, and, dare I say it — life-changing.

The show begins in tragedy, but it is a tragedy that only serves to drive the characters into two simple ideas: assumptions race out of control in a heartbeat and, that amid tragedy, people on the outside want to be a part of the resulting emotional bond.

It is a heightened plane of emotional existence, and many people want to embrace that feeling just as those closest to the tragedy would give anything to have the anguish pass their door. There is no judgment here, just acknowledgement of a human need to connect to the greater emotional experience, to be a part of the event, to build one’s role within either the tragedy itself, society’s reaction to it or the recovery.

“I knew the victims – not well. They were more like acquaintances, but I knew them,” becomes, over time, “I knew them very well. In many ways, I’d say they were my closest friends. We never talked about it, but we knew we were there for each other.”

Why does this happen?

It’s part of an “I BELONG” coping mechanism that we all employ at various times, in varying degrees. In Dear Evan Hansen, however, the coping mechanism is intensified by the impact and immediacy of social media. As we plunge deeper into the world of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, we are, in fact, asking ourselves — who am I? Who am I really, not merely on the surface where I hide in a hundred different ways, but at the very base of my soul?

Are we someone else when we tweet or post on social media? Of course, we are. We ponder and weigh our quotes, our quips, our posts, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. And, once they are sent off into the great ether, we breathlessly await the likes, comments, shares and retweets to stroke our ego. Then, if necessary, we are ready to bend our personal moral narrative to quickly fit the latest emotional trend.

Which person is the real me?

Where is my true self?

Does anyone know me?

Can anyone hear me?

See me?

Do I need a cause, a purpose, a reason to even exist?

These questions are what I found at the core of Dear Evan Hansen, a show so beautifully conceived, written and performed that I simply could not turn away. Rather than a night of bright and bouncy Broadway entertainment, I walked out having had a full emotional meal, each course of music, acting, directing, staging and choreography reaching new heights far beyond what I thought a Broadway musical could possibly attain.

I have never felt this way about a show before – I highly doubt I will ever experience this sort of dramatic impact again.

Hold on. You are about to go on the theatrical ride of your life.

Greg Moody has been a champion of Denver arts and culture for more than 25 years, most with CBS-4.

Watch Greg Moody’s video coverage of Dear Evan Hansen:
Interview with Director Michael Greif
Interview with Writer Steven Levenson
Interview with Producer Stacey Mindich
Interview with Composers Justin Paul and Benj Pasek
Tune in to CBS-4 throughout the run for more interviews

Dear Evan HansenDear Evan Hansen: Denver ticket information

• Sept. 25-Oct. 13
• The Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
• Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
• ASL, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 7, 2 p.m.

• Note: Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized ticket provider for Dear Evan Hansen tickets in Denver. Ticket buyers who purchase tickets from a ticket broker or any third party run the risk of overpaying or purchasing illegitimate tickets. Patrons should be aware that the DCPA is unable to reprint or replace lost or stolen tickets and is unable to contact patrons with information regarding time changes or other pertinent updates regarding the performance. Patrons found in violation of the DCPA Ticket Purchase and Sale Terms and Policies may have all of their tickets canceled.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Midtown Arts Center will close next year after merger with Candlelight

The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse opened in Johnstown in 2008. Photo by John Moore

Owners believe one combined dinner theatre will ensure the future of robust, professional musicals for Northern Colorado audiences

Two of Colorado’s three largest dinner theatres have announced a blockbuster merger that will fundamentally change the landscape of live theatre in Northern Colorado. Whether that turns out to be good news or bad news for theatregoers depends on your perspective.

Dave Clark, owner of the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown, and Kurt Terrio, President of the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins, have finalized a deal that will result both in the permanent closure of Midtown and the expansion of Candlelight effective September 1, 2019.

“Consolidating our resources into one major Northern Colorado musical-theatre center benefits both sets of patrons and helps to solidify our efforts to establish Candlelight not only as a top theatre in Colorado, but on a national scale as well,” Clark said.

But the bottom line: One fewer professional theatre means there will be less live theatre presented in Northern Colorado. “I fully acknowledge that,” Clark said. “But we will have more resources because of it, and that will allow us to increase our production values and become more competitive in many areas.”

The way Terrio sees it: One is better than none. “This deal assures the solvency of one robust professional theatre for the region moving forward,” he said.

Colorado had nine dinner theatres a decade ago. When Midtown closes, there will be only four.

John Moore’s 2008 report on the opening of Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Candlelight and Midtown, located just 17 miles apart, present up to 12 musicals a year for nearly 100,000 patrons in a county (Larimer) with a population of roughly 340,000. The only larger dinner theatre in Colorado is BDT Stage, which serves about 65,000 a year in Boulder.

Midtown opened as the Carousel Dinner Theatre in 1991. It has been competing with Candlelight for audiences, actors and show titles ever since the $6.2 million, 350-seat theatre opened at the Johnson’s Corner truck stop in 2008. Having two large professional dinner theatres in such close proximity was becoming an increasing problem for both. It was Terrio who approached Clark about the merger, even though it would mean the end of his own company.

“I think it’s absolutely miraculous what both companies have been able to do,” Terrio said. “We are both successful, and I think that is a true testament to people’s support for the arts up here. But there was not room for either one of us to grow. And we are unable to compete with the larger metro Denver theatres who often usurp us for newer titles like Mamma Mia [currently playing at the Arvada Center] just because they are bigger. Dave and I have been banging our heads against the wall, because there are only so many resources in Northern Colorado to go around.”

But the deal announced today is an unusual one. Clark is not buying Terrio’s business or his physical assets. “He is absorbing my customer base,” Terrio said. “The goal is to migrate Midtown’s 4,000 season-ticket holders into the Candlelight fold by the start of the 2019-20 season. “We are essentially purchasing Kurt’s cooperation in helping his patrons make the move to Candlelight over the next year,” Clark said. “By the time Midtown closes, we want to have his patrons signed up and ready to go for our next season.”

Kurt Terrio with his family at the opening of the Midtown Arts Center in 2010. Photo by John Moore.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

If Midtown’s subscribers go along with the plan, Candlelight’s current base of 3,500 could more than double. And that would give Clark the resources he needs to move Candlelight up a notch in scale.

“Our initial goal is to increase attendance from 55,000 a year to 75,000 — on the low end,” said Clark, who already has added Motones Vs. Jerseys to next year’s lineup of five mainstage shows. He also anticipates increasing the number of performances Candlelight presents each week from the current five to accommodate increased demand. That would result in higher actor and crew wages. He also plans to expand his concert series, and he said he is open to exploring the possibility of presenting mainstage shows in repertory to increase variety in his programming.

“We think it is essential that we give our audiences more than five opportunities a year to come to Candlelight Dinner Playhouse,” Clark said.

But whether Candlelight can win over Midtown’s subscriber base may hinge on whether Candlelight can satiate the more adventurous theatre palate Terrio has nurtured in his audiences over the years.

The Midtown Arts Center opened in 2010 when the former Carousel Dinner Theatre moved down the block in Fort Collins.

The two companies are in some ways alike: Candlelight is presenting Mary Poppins right now, and Midtown will serve up My Fair Lady next year. But while the bread and butter of both dinner theatres is that kind of family-friendly Broadway musical fare, Midtown also has an impressive record of being the first Colorado theatre company to stage edgier contemporary works such as Fun Home, Once, Next to Normal, The Producers, Cats and Miss Saigon, among others.

There is next to no chance the Candlelight of today would ever present Next to Normal, the story of a suicidal, bipolar mother. It would be no home for Fun Home, which featured Broadway’s first lesbian protagonist. Clark admits the end of Midtown probably means the end of its brand of cutting-edge musicals in Northern Colorado — at least for now.

“Maybe in the future,” Clark said. “We have been committed to standard, family friendly fare since the day we opened, and we get tons of comments from our audiences thanking us for that. Right now, I am more concerned about building what we’ve already got and making sure we go through this transition successfully.” Upcoming titles on the Candlelight schedule also include Scrooge The Musical, Nunsense, Oliver! and Disney’s Tarzan.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

That’s a bittersweet consequence for Terrio, he said, because that is his legacy. “That’s probably the thing I will miss the most – having burly construction guys stop me in the street and say, ‘My favorite show was Next to Normal,’ ” said Terrio, who hopes other Fort Collins theatre companies such as Bas Bleu and OpenStage seize the opening.

But both men reiterated that the days of both Midtown and Candlelight operating independently and successfully were dwindling. Something had to give. “We’ve had good years and bad years, but at the end of the day, it’s theatre, and the margins are very tight,” Terrio said.

“Next to Normal,” starring Margie Lamb, was a game-changer for Midtown Arts Center in 2011.

Since 2010, Midtown has performed in a huge, rented, 20,650-square-foot former movieplex that provided space for kitchen facilities and up to three performance venues. “But it was actually too big for us,” Terrio said. “We were only using about 30 percent of the space, and it had a lot of deferred maintenance.”

The future of Midtown was cast in grave doubt back in January, when the property at 3750 S. Mason St. was purchased by Housing Catalyst (formerly the Fort Collins Housing Authority) for $2.7 million to turn the building into low-income housing. Several attempts at finding a new home for Midtown fizzled.

The deal effectively ends Terrio’s colorful run as a theatre purveyor in Fort Collins after two decades, as he will have no operational role at Candlelight. He has an ownership interest in a dinner theatre in Florida, though he will not be moving there.

“I am going to take some time with my family,” said Terrio. “My kids are close to getting ready to go to college. I feel like I have given nearly 20 years to the dinner theatre, and there are other things I want to do with my life. There are a couple of restaurant concepts I am interested in, and I have a real-estate license.”

But before he goes, Terrio has one more “first” up his sleeve: Midtown will close next summer with the first homegrown Colorado production of Matilda The Musical.

What about the Midtown Academy?

The Academy at Midtown Arts Center has long offered a robust children’s theatre-education program that Terrio sold to Jalyn Courtenay Webb three years ago and has continued to operate there as a separately owned business.  Webb said the Academy will be moving to a new location in September 2019. “We will continue our lease at Midtown for the next year, and then we will expand with a second location in Greeley as well,” she said.

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.

Candlelight’s current production of “Mary Poppins,” left (photo by Dyann Diercks), and Midtown Arts Center’s current production of “West Side Story” (photo by Matthew Gale.)

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

  • Now through November 11: Mary Poppins
  • November 23-December31: Scrooge, The Musical
  • January 10-March 3, 2019: Nunsense
  • March 14-May 26, 2019: Oliver!
  • June 6-August 25, 2019: Disney’s Tarzan

Midtown Arts Center

3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

  • Now through Nov. 11, 2018: West Side Story
  • November 23-December 24, 2018: Heart of the Holiday
  • October 12-November 18, 2018: The Roy Orbison Experience (in the Ballroom)
  • January 3-March 10, 2019: First Date
  • January 10-March 17, 2019: My Way (in the Ballroom)
  • March 21-May 26, 2019: My Fair Lady
  • June 7, 2019-August 11, 2019: Matilda

New Colorado Springs artistic leader on closing the empathy gap


Caitlin Lowans succeeds TheatreWorks founder Murray Ross knowing her appointment is both a responsibility and a gift

Caitlin Lowans looks out at the expanse of Colorado Springs as it runs headlong into the foothills of Pikes Peak with a sense of wonder and melancholy. Wonder because this child of New England is starting her dream job way out west as only the second Artistic Director in the 43-year history of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks.

Melancholy because “I know that the only reason I am here is because he is not,” she said.

“He” is Murray Ross, who started TheatreWorks from nothing on the campus of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 1975 and built it into a fertile theatre incubator for students and the larger Pikes Peak region until his death in January 2017. Lowans, who has more than 50 directing credits in Boston and Chicago, was named his successor in May and begins in earnest this month with the September 27 opening of A Raisin in the Sun.

Lowans never met the free-spirited Ross, but she knew he was a kindred spirit as soon as she read about his 2013 production of Everyman on the Bus. That was an adaptation of a 500-year-old English morality — and mortality — play. And it was staged on a moving public bus (a metaphor for death) that ended at a surprise destination.

“Murray seems like someone I would have been so excited to know and create with,” Lowans said. “The opportunity to continue his legacy feels like a great gift and a great responsibility. I know I am building on something here that is really enormous and passionate, and feels like a family.”

Caitlin Lowans directed ‘In the Summer House’ for Fort Point Theatre Channel in Boston.

Her first impressions of Colorado Springs reflect the anachronism and contradiction of a major metropolis made up of a wide ideological mix of military, evangelical and counterculture populations. And Lowans and can’t wait to get to know them more.

“I think there’s something about the differing political affinities here — that someone can be politically conservative and still go to yoga,” she said. “Here, these things can coexist. I feel like the landscape is metaphor in the way: Here the city and the wilderness both intermingle with each other.”

Colorado Springs presents itself to Lowans as a community in transition. “This city is of a size where a civic institution like TheatreWorks or the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College can actually make a difference,” she said. “That wasn’t always the case in Chicago. The idea of making art and really being able to be in conversation with the people of your city is very exciting to me.”

TheatreWorks is an uncommon professional regional theater company in that it is both fully integrated as an outreach program of the college while also serving the Pikes Peak community as a whole. TheatreWorks offers a mix of both classic plays and more challenging contemporary fare. Lowans has inherited a first season that includes traditional titles A Christmas Carol and Little Shop of Horrors along with a new developing work by Idris Goodwin, who wrote and directed the Denver Center’s recent production of This is Modern Art. She arrives in Colorado Springs just in time for her company’s second season in the new crown jewel of Colorado Springs: The $70 million Ent Center.

Read more: Our report on the opening of the Ent Center

When asked what made her the right person for the job, Lowans speculated that the deciding factors were “my love of the work of the past, but always at the service of building a future,” she said. “And my listening.”

Lowans says much of her first year in Colorado Springs will be spent listening as she assesses how to serve both the student and broader communities, which often can be at odds.

“The question I will be asking is this: ‘What are the conversations that this community and these students need to be having — among themselves, and with each other?’ ” she said. “When I look at a play that we might produce, I will want to know: ‘What are the conversations this play begins, and how can we create structures before, after, even sometimes during the work to have those conversations?’ ”

The $70 million Ent Center is the new home of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks and other local arts organizations. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NwwsCenter.


Lowans says her personal passion is for new work and heightened language. When asked to name a previous production she directed that best signals the kind of artistic leader she will be at TheatreWorks, she chose Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl. It’s an epic story that shows three communities attempting to stage the story of Christ’s death and resurrection in very three different times and places: 1575 England, 1934 Bavaria and 1960s-80s Spearfish, S.D.

“The play itself is fantastic, and one of the many questions it asks is how to be an individual in a community that tells that individual how to live,” she said. “I did it on a campus, where young people often feel pressure to conform to what the campus community needs them to be. But in staging that play, we created community. We literally broke bread with the audience during the intermissions. We broke down the divide between the artists who make things and audiences who sit back and experience things. And in the end, we were just a group of people coming together to share a story.”

Lowans was born in Cambridge, Mass., and this year earned her master’s degree in directing with a 4.0 grade-point average from Northwestern University in Chicago under the tutelage of towering theatre figures such as Anna Shapiro and Mary Zimmerman. She earned her first master’s degree in Education at Harvard in 2008 and graduated from Georgetown with a degree in International Politics in 2003.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

She now joins the ranks of the nation’s leading artistic directors at a time when 73 percent of U.S. artistic directors are white men. She said decades of closed doors at the highest levels of artistic leadership has resulted in what she calls “an empathy gap” in our society. “Certain people have not been shown themselves in the mirror — so they’ve been asked to stretch and see themselves in folks who don’t look like them,” she said. “Those who have traditionally held power haven’t been asked to stretch, and they haven’t been asked to see themselves in others.”

The biggest challenge facing American artistic leaders today, she said, “is to find the courage to act from a place of strength rather than a place of deficit or fear. When people are operating from a place of fear, I think they’re afraid to lose what they already have.

“So as we invite new people to the table for the first time, I think a lot of people are afraid that is going to get them kicked off the table. But I say, ‘Hey, let’s just make the table bigger.’ The conversation will be richer for the multiple voices that are around it.”

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.

Coming next week: Our interview with new Aurora Fox Producer Helen Murray

Get to know Caitlin Lowans:

John Moore: Name five of your favorite playwrights, living or dead.

Caitlin Lowans: Suzan-Lori Parks, Lucy Kirkwood, Rachel Crothers, William Shakespeare and Antoinette Nwandu. She is one of the most exciting playwrights I’ve ever encountered.

John Moore: When is the last time you saw greatness play out in front of you on stage or screen?

Caitlin Lowans: Sorry to Bother You was a fantastic film. I am really attached to form and how people play with it. And it’s been a long time since I saw something that critiqued a larger structure not just in the content but also the way that film critiqued capitalism. How art can critique structures is a huge question for me.

John Moore: TheatreWorks has a tradition of regularly bringing some of the most remarkable artists in the American theater to campus through the work of True West Award winner Kevin Landis. Who would be your ultimate visiting artist?

Caitlin Lowans: Lear DeBessonet, who originated the public works program at the Public Theatre in New York.


John Moore: What’s currently playing on your Spotify?

Caitlin Lowans: Tank and the Bangas. You should watch their tiny-desk concert which is how I, like the NPR dork that I am, first found them.

John Moore: Tom Brady or Case Keenum?

Tom Brady. left, and Case Keenum

Caitlin Lowans: I’m going to say Tom Brady because I don’t know who that second person is.

John Moore: I’m going to help you: He’s the new quarterback of the Denver Broncos.

Caitlin Lowans: This is a terrible question.

John Moore: It is. But you’re in charge now. You are going to have get used to the hard questions.

Caitlin Lowans: I’ll go with the Broncos then, because I am still suspicious of that whole DeflateGate thing. I have no deep affection for Tom Brady. Now if you had asked me which minor-league baseball team do I support, I would have gone with the Portland [Maine] Sea Dogs all the way. No matter where I live now.

John Moore: Here’s another hard question: What do you think Murray Ross’ advice to you would be?

Caitlin Lowans: I think he would tell me that if something really needs to be made, I should just go for it and make it — and that there are other people here who will come together and help me figure out how to get it done.

Colorado Springs TheatreWorks

5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80918, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

  • September 27-October 21, 2018: TheatreWorks’ A Raisin in the Sun
  • November 29-December 24, 2018: TheatreWorks’A Christmas Carol
  • January 24-February 10, 2019: TheatreWorks: New work by Idris Goodwin
  • April 25-May 19, 2019: TheatreWorks’ Little Shop of Horrors