• Arvada Center pops a wheelie: Record 29 Henry Award nominations

    by John Moore | Jun 12, 2018
    CSFACCC Fun Home

    From the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College's 'Fun Home,' which today received 11 Henry Award nominations. Photo by Jeff Kearney.

    Homegrown productions of groundbreaking Fun Home combine for 19 nominations from Colorado Theatre Guild

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Colorado Theatre Guild’s 2018 Henry Award nominations reflect the biggest story of the Colorado theatre year: Three Colorado companies became the first to stage the groundbreaking musical Fun Home — and they were rewarded today with a combined 19 nominations.

    The Arvada Center broke the Henry Awards’ all-time record for nominations with 29, followed by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College with 24. The Denver Center was next, with 15. Those three are joined in the Outstanding Season category by the Aurora Fox, Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins, Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden and Vintage Theatre in Aurora.

    The Fine Arts Center’s productions of Fun Home and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels tied as the most honored productions of the Colorado theatre year, with 11 nominations each. Among musicals, Miners Alley Playhouse’s staging of Fun Home picked up eight nominations, followed by the Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (7), Inspire Creative’s co-production of Hairspray with Parker Arts (7), and the Aurora Fox’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch (6).

     Arvada Center Sense and Sensibility Photo by Matthew Gale The most honored play of the year is the Arvada Center’s modern adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (on wheels!) with 10, followed by The Edge Theatre’s Mud Blue Sky (5) and the Arvada Center’s All My Sons (4), Vintage Theatre’s August: Osage County (4) and Benchmark Theatre’s A Kid Like Jake (4).  (Pictured: 'Sense and Sensibility.' Photo by Matthew Gale.)

    Sense and Sensibility, which launched the Arvada Center’s second year with a year-round company of resident actors, earned four acting nods including, appropriately enough, one for Outstanding Ensemble. The precisely timed staging by Director Lynne Collins was more than an old-fashioned Jane Austen comedy of manners pitting heart versus head. “It’s a very physical, mannered dance, performed with distinction by a gifted cast,” wrote The Denver Post’s Joanne Ostrow. All of the set pieces were placed on wheels and twirled in precise choreography, steered by frenetic actors sometimes holding on by their ankles. Ostrow called the effort "a dizzying, delightful spectacle.”

    DRScoundrels 400Fun Home, the first major Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist, is an underdog story that was staged in early 2018 by companies  in Colorado Springs, Golden and Fort Collins. It is based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir of a woman who dives deep into her past to revisit how she discovered her own sexuality — while at the same time trying to piece together the mystery surrounding her late father. Alison is represented onstage by three actors playing the character at different ages. And, in a fun twist — at least one actor playing Alison at all three ages is nominated for a Henry Award, including young Sophia Dotson, who played “Small Alison” for Miners Alley Playhouse. 

    (Pictured: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College's 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,' nominated for 11 Henry Awards.)

    The Henrys nominate seven — and in some cases eight — artists in each category. The Outstanding Lead Actress field not only includes three of Colorado's Fun Home Alisons, it has two women from separate productions of Always … Patsy Cline: Norrell Moore played the iconic singer for BDT Stage, while Jalyn Courtenay Webb played her bossy friend Louise for Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins. (Pictured, photos courtesy Midtown Arts Center and Glenn Ross.)

    Patsy ClinesThe Henry Awards, which consider achievements among Colorado Theatre Guild member companies, have been notoriously topsy-turvy throughout its controversial and unpredictable 13-year existence. This year, for first time in Henrys history, not a single DCPA Theatre Company production is included among the seven nominated outstanding plays or musicals. The Denver Center received only two individual nominations among the Henrys' 58 possible acting slots — Jordan Leigh as a supporting actor in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date, and supporting actress Lulu Fall, who played The Acid Queen in the Theatre Company’s The Who’s Tommy.

    The DCPA Theatre Company, which staged four world premieres this season, placed The Great Leap and Zoey's Perfect Wedding among the seven nominated new works. But not record-setting audience favorite American Mariachi, which already has been performed at the Old Globe in San Diego and has several more stagings lined up throughout the country. It received only one nomination, for costumes.

    How Fun Home found a home in theatres all over Colorado

    The Arvada Center's 29 nominations eclipes the Denver Center's record of 28 set in 2014. It has been two years since the Arvada Center added Collins (a double-nominee for direction) to oversee the production of plays while Rod A. Lansberry continues to supervise the musicals. Lansberry is nominated for his direction of A Chorus Line.  But what put the Arvada Center into record territory was the return of Joseph, once its annual holiday staple, which received seven nominations under the direction of Gavin Mayer.
     

    In all, 29 member companies shared the 178 overall Henry Award nominations: 

    Nominations by Company

    • Arvada Center: 29
    • Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College: 24
    • DCPA Theatre Company, Cabaret and Off-Center: 15
    • Miners Alley Playhouse: 13
    • Vintage Theatre (Aurora): 12
    • Midtown Arts Center (Fort Collins): 11
    • Aurora Fox: 9
    • The Edge Theater Company: 7
    • Inspire Creative and Parker Arts: 7
    • Benchmark Theatre: 5
    • Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company: 5
    • Breckenridge Backstage Theatre: 5
    • OpenStage Theatre Company (Fort Collins): 5
    • Local Theater Company (Boulder): 4
    • Thunder River Theatre Company (Carbondale): 4
    • BDT Stage:3
    • Buntport Theater: 3
    • Colorado Shakespeare Festival: 3
    • Lowry's Spotlight Theater (all shared with Vintage Theatre): 3
    • Town Hall Arts Center (Littleton): 3
    • Cherry Creek Theatre: 2
    • Lone Tree Arts Center: 2
    • TheatreWorks (Colorado Springs): 2
    • 5280 Artists Coop: 1
    • Emancipation Theater Company: 1
    • Evergreen Chorale: 1
    • Lake Dillon Theatre Company: 1
    • Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre (Grand Lake): 1

    Noticeably missing from that nominee slate is again Curious Theatre Company, a former Henry Awards darling that pulled out of further consideration in 2016, citing “a profound lack of diversity” among the winners.

    August Adrian Egolf 160Among actors, multiple nominees this year include Adrian Egolf (pictured) as a lead actress in Benchmark Theatre’s A Kid Like Jake, and as a supporting actress in Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s The Revolutionists. She played a mother competing to get her gender-fluid 4-year-old into the best kindergarten in the former; a beguiling Marie Antoinette in the latter. Emma Messenger, who previously won Outstanding Actress two straight years, is twice nominated as a supporting actress this year, for The Edge Theater’s Mud Blue Sky and Vintage’s current Agnes of God, which runs through July 8. In the former, Messenger played a melancholy flight attendant pushed out of her job because of her body size; in the latter, she plays an imperious nun.

    Nick Sugar, the most honored individual in Colorado Theatre Guild history, is nominated both for directing and choreographing the Aurora Fox’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, bringing his 13-year total to 21 Henry Award nominations.

    There often are nominee clusters in the four design categories each year because the Guild splits scenic, lighting, sound and costume design nominees into two tiers determined by member companies' annual overall operating budgets. Only six member companies have annual budgets above the $1.2 million threshold and are therefore considered Tier I: The DCPA, Arvada Center, Creede Repertory Theatre, Theatre Aspen, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Colorado Springs TheatreWorks. The rest all compete in Tier II. But both categories still get seven (and sometimes eight) nominees.

    “We are looking to expand the number of Tier I companies for the 2018-19 season,” said CTG board member and past president T. David Rutherford. “We will be discussing the change with producers in the weeks to come.”

    Jason DucatDesigners Jason Ducat (pictured) and Brian Mallgrave pulled off a triple play by each landing three individual nominations this year. Ducat, whose most recent sound design is currently on display in the DCPA’s Human Error, was nominated three times, for the Arvada Center’s All My Sons and Sense and Sensibility; and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Julius Caesar. Mallgrave, a former actor who has now earned 19 Henry Award nominations as a scenic designer, was singled out this year for the Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sense and Sensibility and Sunday in the Park with George.

    Denver Center Costume Designer Meghan Anderson Doyle was nominated twice in Tier I, for the Theatre Company’s American Mariachi and Off-Center’s The Wild Party. Lighting Designer Katie Gruenhagen landed nominations in both tiers: For Off-Center’s This is Modern Art (Tier I) and Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s Birds of North America.

    Other multiple nominees this year include:

    • Nathan Halvorson for both directing Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Fun Home, and for his choreography for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
    • Jalyn Courtenay Webb, as Outstanding Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Louise in Midtown Arts Center’s Always … Patsy Cline in Fort Collins, and for her co-musical direction of Midtown’s Ragtime.
    • Lynne Collins, for directing the Arvada Center’s All My Sons and Sense and Sensibility.
    • Bernie Cardell, for directing August: Osage County for Vintage Theatre and Sleuth as a co-production between Vintage and Lowry's Spotlight Theatre.
    • Barry J. DeBois, who has made a pretty solid career for himself playing Guy in various productions of Once around the country, is nominated as Outstanding Actor in a Musical as well as for his co-musical direction for the Midtown Arts Center. Kurt Terrio is nominated for his co-musical direction of Midtown’s Ragtime and Once. Both productions also are nominated for Outstanding Musical.
    • Costume Designer Clare Henkel is nominated for the Arvada Center’s Sense and Sensibility and Sunday in the Park with George.
    • Scenic Designer Brandon Case is nominated for the Aurora Fox’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Real Women Have Curves
    • Sound Designer Tori Higgins is nominated for Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Fun Home.
    • Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck is nominated for choreographing the Arvada Center’s A Chorus Line and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
    • Peter Anthony is nominated for his scenic and sound designs for OpenStage Theatre Company’s The Crucible.

    And while Warren Sherrill is officially nominated only once, for his scenic design of The Edge’s Mud Blue Sky, he also directed two Outstanding Play nominees: The Edge’s Death of a Salesman and Benchmark Theatre’s A Kid Like Jake.

    Highly regarded eligible companies that were shut out of the nominations this year include Boulder’s The Catamounts, which had eight nominations a year ago; Phamaly Theatre Company; Creede Repertory Theatre; the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown; Performance Now in Lakewood; and Theatre Aspen, which earned 25 nominations just two years ago and won Outstanding Season by a company.

    Perhaps the most glaringly omitted individual among all nominees is Emily Van Fleet, who was critically celebrated for headlining two very different challenges in Off-Center’s The Wild Party and the Arvada Center’s Sunday in the Park with George. Van Fleet, a 2017 True West Award winner, has never earned a Henry Award nomination.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Established in 2006, the Henrys are named for longtime local theatre producer Henry Lowenstein and serve as the Colorado Theatre Guild's annual fundraising event. Nominations were determined through a judging process conducted by statewide adjudicators. Five judges must score a show for it to be eligible. According to Rutherford, 162 of 197 shows were fully scored, or 82.2 percent of all member offerings.

    He said that unlike other years, the nominees for Outstanding Season were determined simply by the seven companies with the most nominations.

    The Guild has overhauled the judging pool in recent months, aggressively growing the number of active judges from about 25 a year ago to 100. Rutherford says the judging pool for the new theatre season, which began June 1, has grown to 120. Many other sweeping changes for the coming season include judges being assigned to shows they score, rather than choosing they shows they want to see.

    Tickets for the 2018 Henry Awards ceremony are $35 for CTG members (up from $23 last year); the nonmember price is now $40 (and rises to $45 on the day of the event July 23).

    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.

    Video: A look back at the 2017 Henry Awards

    2018 HENRY AWARD NOMINATIONS

    Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company

    • Arvada Center
    • Aurora Fox
    • Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • DCPA Theatre Company
    • Midtown Arts Center
    • Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Vintage Theatre

    Outstanding Production of a Play

    • All My Sons, Arvada Center, Directed by Lynne Collins
    • August: Osage County, Vintage Theatre, Directed by Bernie Cardell
    • Constellations, Thunder River Theatre Company, Directed by Mike Monroney
    • Death of a Salesman, The Edge Theater Company, Directed by Warren Sherrill
    • A Kid Like Jake, Benchmark Theatre, Directed by Warren Sherrill
    • The Rape of the Sabine Women, Local Theater Company, Directed by Christy Montour-Larson
    • Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center, Directed by Lynne Collins

    Outstanding Production of a Musical

    • JAKE MENDES HEDWIG AURORA FOXHedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox, Directed by Nick Sugar, Musical Direction by David Nehls
    • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Directed by Scott RC Levy, Musical Direction by Sharon Skidgel
    • Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Directed by Nathan Halvorson, Musical Direction by Stephanie McGuffin
    • Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse, Directed by Len Matheo, Musical Direction by Mitch Samu
    • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center, Directed by Gavin Mayer, Musical Direction by Roberto Sinha
    • Once, Midtown Arts Center, Directed by Kurt Terrio, Musical Direction by Barry DeBois and Kurt Terrio
    • Ragtime, Midtown Arts Center, Directed by Joseph Callahan, Musical Direction by Jalyn Courtenay Webb and Kurt Terrio

    Outstanding Direction of a Play

    • Craig Bond, Red, Vintage Theatre
    • Bernie Cardell, August: Osage County, Vintage Theatre
    • Bernie Cardell, Sleuth, Vintage Theatre and Lowry's Spotlight Theater
    • Lynne Collins, All My Sons, Arvada Center
    • Lynne Collins, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Mike Monroney, Constellations, Thunder River Theatre Company
    • Christy Montour-Larson, The Rape of the Sabine Women, Local Theater Company

    Outstanding Direction of a Musical

    • Sam Buntrock, The Who's Tommy, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Nathan Halvorson, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Rod A. Lansberry, A Chorus Line, Arvada Center
    • Scott RC Levy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Len Matheo, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Gavin Mayer, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center
    • Nick Sugar, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox Arts Center

    Outstanding Musical Direction

    • Barry J. DeBois and Kurt Terrio, Once, Midtown Arts Center
    • Donna Kolpan Debreceni, In the Heights, Town Hall Arts Center
    • Tanner Kelly, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
      Mitch Samu, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Roberto Sinha, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center
    • Sharon Skidgel, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Jalyn Courtenay Webb and Kurt Terrio, Ragtime, Midtown Arts Center

    Outstanding Actor in a Play

    • Antonio Amadeo, A Kid Like Jake, Benchmark Theatre
    • Logan Ernstthal, A Picasso, Cherry Creek Theatre
    • Kevin Hart, Death of a Salesman, The Edge Theater Company
    • Chris Kendall, District Merchants, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Esau Pritchett, Fences, Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Lance Rasmussen, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Mark Robbins, Amadeus, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks
    • Mark Rubald, Sleuth, Vintage Theatre and Lowry's Spotlight Theatre

    Outstanding Actress in a Play

    • Adrian Egolf, A Kid Like Jake, Benchmark Theatre
    • Lauren Hooper, Intimate Apparel, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Candace Joice, District Merchants, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Lenne Klingaman, Hamlet, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Missy Moore, Ugly Lies the Bone, Lake Dillon Theatre Company
    • Jessica Robblee, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Erin Rollman, The Book Handlers, Buntport Theater

    Outstanding Actor in a Musical

    • Brian Boyd, Ragtime, Midtown Arts Center
    • Larry Cahn, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Barry J. DeBois, Once, Midtown Arts Center
    • Tim Howard, The Producers, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Patrick Oliver Jones, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Jake Mendes, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox
    • Kyle Dean Steffen, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College

    Outstanding Actress in a Musical

    • Elena Juliano, Once, Midtown Arts Center
    • Jessica Kahkoska, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Susannah McLeod, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Allison Mickelson, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Norrell Moore, Always ... Patsy Cline, BDT Stage
    • Marissa Rudd, Ragtime, Midtown Arts Center
    • Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Always ... Patsy Cline, Midtown Arts Center

    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play

    • Geoffrey Kent Matthew GaleZachary Andrews, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Sam Gregory, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Geoffrey Kent, All My Sons, Arvada Center
    • Bob Moore, The Price, Thunder River Theatre Company
    • Matt Schneck, The Rape of the Sabine Women, Local Theater Company
    • Marc Stith, August: Osage County, Vintage Theatre
    • Erik Thurston, Mud Blue Sky, The Edge Theater Company

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play

    • Jessica Austgen, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Emily Davies, Mud Blue Sky, The Edge Theater Company
    • Hannah Duggan, Edger Allan Poe is Dead and So is My Cat, Buntport Theater
    • Adrian Egolf, The Revolutionists, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Kristina Fountaine, District Merchants, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Emma Messenger, Mud Blue Sky, The Edge Theater Company
    • Emma Messenger, Agnes of God, Vintage Theatre
    • Martha Harmon Pardee, A Kid Like Jake, Benchmark Theatre

    Jordan LeighOutstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

    • Brandon Bill, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Randy Chalmers, Ain't Misbehavin', Town Hall Arts Center
    • Stephen Day, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center
    • TJ Hogle, Bullets Over Broadway, Vintage Theatre
    • Jordan Leigh, First Date, DCPA Cabaret (pictured)
    • Josh Rigo, The Producers, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Christopher Willard, The Producers, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

    Fun Home. Miners Alley Playhouse. Sophia Dotson. Photo by John Moore.

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

    • Mackenzie Beyer, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Judeth Shay Comstock, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Sophia Dotson (pictured above), Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Colby Dunn, The Producers, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Lulu Fall, The Who's Tommy, DCPA Theatre Company
      Julia Tobey, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Megan Van De Hey, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College

    Outstanding Ensemble Performance

    • A Chorus Line, Arvada Center
    • A Kid Like Jake, Benchmark Theatre
    • Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • A Picasso, Cherry Creek Theatre
    • Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Sleuth, Vintage Theatre and Lowry's Spotlight Theatre

    Outstanding Choreography

    • Liane Adamo, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Clark Ausloos and Jeff Duke, West Side Story, Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre
    • Joseph Callahan, Ragtime, Midtown Arts Center
    • Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, A Chorus Line, Arvada Center
    • Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center
    • Nathan Halvorson, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Nick Sugar, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox

    Outstanding New Play or Musical

    • The Book Handlers, By Buntport Theater; Directed by Buntport Theater, Produced by Buntport Theater
    • A Christmas Carol, Adapted for the stage by Josh Hartwell; Directed by Len Matheo, Produced by Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Colorism: Breaking the Chains of Complexion, By Kenya Fashaw; Directed by Kenya Fashaw and Adrienne Martin-Fullwood, Produced by 5280 Artists Coop
    • The Great Leap, By Lauren Yee; Directed by Eric Ting, Produced by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Honorable Disorder, By Jeff Campbell; Directed by Jeff Campbell, Produced by Emancipation Theater Company
    • The Three Musketeers, Adapted for the stage by Richard Strahle; Directed by Denise Burson Freestone, Produced by OpenStage Theatre Company
    • Zoey's Perfect Wedding, By Matthew Lopez; Directed by Mike Donahue, Produced by DCPA Theatre Company

    Outstanding Costume Design, larger budget

    • Stephanie Bradley, Amadeus, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks 
    • Meghan Anderson Doyle, American Mariachi, DCPA Theatre Company
      Meghan Anderson Doyle, The Wild Party, DCPA Off-Center
    • Sydney Gallas, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Clare Henkel, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Clare Henkel, Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center
    • Drew Mathisen, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center

    Outstanding Costume Design, smaller budget

    • Terri Fong, Ain't Misbehavin', Town Hall Arts Center
    • Brenda King, The Revolutionists, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Laurie Klapperich, Real Women Have Curves, Aurora Fox Arts Center
    • Cole Mitchell, The Producers, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Linda Morken, Always...Patsy Cline, BDT Stage
    • Davis Sibley, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Evergreen Chorale
    • Rebecca Spafford, The Crucible, OpenStage Theatre Company

    Outstanding Lighting Design, larger budget

    • Katie Gruenhagen, This is Modern Art, DCPA Off-Center
    • Alex Jainchill, Macbeth, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Charles R. MacLeod, Native Gardens, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Shannon McKinney, Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center
    • Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, Smart People, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Holly Rawls, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Jonathan Spencer, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College

    Outstanding Lighting Design, smaller budget

    • Seth Alison, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Katie Gruenhagen, Birds of North America, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Sean Jeffries, Constellations, Thunder River Theatre Company
    • Brett Maughan, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox Arts Center
    • Vance McKenzie, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Andrew Metzroth, Going to a Place Where You Already Are, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Brian Miller, The Crucible, OpenStage Theatre Company

    Outstanding Scenic Design larger budget

    • Lex Liang, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Brian Mallgrave, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center
      Brian Mallgrave, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Brian Mallgrave, Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center
    • Lisa M. Orzolek, Native Gardens, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Christopher L. Sheley, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Jason Sherwood, The Who's Tommy, DCPA Theatre Company

    Outstanding Scenic Design, smaller budget

    • Peter Anthony, The Crucible, OpenStage Theatre Company
    • Tina Anderson, Going to a Place Where You Already Are, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Brandon Case, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox
    • Brandon Case, Real Women Have Curves, Aurora Fox
    • Susan Crabtree, Wisdom from Everything, Local Theater Company
    • Michael R. Duran, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Ed Haynes, Fences, Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Warren Sherrill, Mud Blue Sky, The Edge Theater Company

    Outstanding Sound Design, larger budget

    • Jason Ducat, All My Sons, Arvada Center
    • Jason Ducat, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Jason Ducat, Julius Caesar, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Tori Higgins, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Tori Higgins, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Elisheba Ittoop, This is Modern Art, DCPA Off-Center
    • David Thomas, Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center

    Outstanding Sound Design, smaller budget

    • Peter Anthony, The Crucible, OpenStage Theatre Company
    • Justin Babcock, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Joe Brindley, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Ashley Campbell, Mud Blue Sky, The Edge Theater Company
    • Carlos D. Flores, Red, Vintage Theatre
    • Wayne Kennedy, Always...Patsy Cline, BDT Stage
    • Luke Rahmsdorff-Terry, August: Osage County, Vintage Theatre

    2018 Henry Awards: Ticket information

    • Monday, July 23
    • 6 p.m. drinks; 7 p.m. awards
    • At the Lone Tree Arts Center, 10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue,
    • Tickets: $35 for CTG members, $40 non-members.
    • Call 720-509-1000 or go to lonetreeartscenter.org
  • Look back: 'First Date' actors serenade patients on Valentine's Day

    by John Moore | May 01, 2018

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter

    The actors spread music and joy on what might have been a lonelier holiday for some patients at UCHealth

    We wanted to wait until DCPA Cabaret's recent extended hit musical First Date closed before we took you behind-the-scenes for a very special day of community outreach back on Valentine's Day.

    UC Health First Date Five cast members visited University of Colorado Hospital and performed excerpts from the show for patients, family members and staff in the UCHealth auditorium, followed by a Q&A with the audience and an autograph-signing.

    The actors then visited several patient rooms to spread cheer for those who were either isolated or not well enough to leave their rooms. When one respiratory patient mentioned her faith, cast member Cashelle Butler sang her an impromptu, a capella version of “How Great Thou Art.” For another patient, she sang Brandi Carlile’s “That Wasn’t Me.”  

    UCHealth 800 First Date John MooreThe other participating actors were Adriane Leigh Robinson, Seth Dhonau, Steven J. Burge and Jordan Leigh.

    "I think all of the cultural arts are a great way of healing and treating," said Heather Hogoboom, UCHealth's Manager of Corporate Partnerships. "We here at the hospital can help with the physical aspects, but music, art and performance bring a lot of joy, and we know that's part of the whole process to get better." 

    First Date, directed by Ray Roderick, closed on April 22 at the Garner Galleria Theatre. He has another new project, For the Love of George, that will play four performances in the Conservatory Theatre from May 3-11. (Call 303-893-4100.)


    Photo gallery: The making of First Date in Denver:


    The making of 'First Date' in Denver
    To see more photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of First Date:
    For the Love of George: Meet Cupid's misfiring brother, George
    Video: Your 'First Date' with Director Ray Roderick
    Understudies talk about their unique role in First Date
    Video: Photos: Your first look at First Date
    Meet the all-local cast: More fun to read than any dating profile!
    Cashelle Butler visits Cherry Creek High School
  • Video: Your 'First Date' with Director Ray Roderick

    by John Moore | Feb 13, 2018

    In the video above, Director Ray Roderick talks about the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' production of the musical comedy First Date, which he calls a "super-funny, modern love story" that follows two characters as they go through their first date at a busy New York restaurant.

    First Date Fall Casting Photo by Emily LozowAs the date unfolds, the couple quickly finds they are not alone on this unpredictable evening. "It reminds people of what it was to be in love for the first time," Roderick said.

    The all-local cast includes Adriane Leigh Robinson, Seth Dhonau, Steven J. Burge, Jordan Leigh, Lauren Shealy, Barret Harper and Cashelle Butler. (Pictured at right:  Dhonau and Robinson, by Emily Lozow.)

    First Date performs through April 22 at the Garner Galleria Theatre.

    Video by Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Meet the cast: More fun to read than any dating profile!

    First Date: Ticket information
    First DatePerformances through April 22
    Tickets: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    At the Garner Galleria Theatre

    The book is written by by Austin Winberg. Music and Lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. Orchestrations by August Eriksmoen. Vocal and Incidental Music Arrangements by Dominick Amendum.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of First Date:
    Understudies talk about their unique role in First Date
    Video: Photos: Your first look at First Date
    Check out the all-local cast of the Denver Center's First Date


    Ray Roderick
  • 'First Date' understudies will take center stage at Denver Actors Fund screening

    by John Moore | Jan 18, 2018
    Understudies Cashelle Butler and Barret Harper. First Date Photo by John Moore
    First Date understudies Cashelle Butler and Barret Harper. Photo by John Moore

    Unsung heroes will get their chance to sing out at Monday's benefit screening of 500 Days of Summer at Alamo

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Understudies are among the many unsung heroes of the theatre — especially on long-running shows such as DCPA Cabaret’s romantic musical comedy First Date at the Galleria Theatre. All the more so during the ongoing cold and flu epidemic in Denver.

    We talked about it with Cashelle Butler and Barret Harper, who on Monday will be performing songs from First Date before a screening of the popular film 500 Days of Summer at the Alamo Drafthouse. It’s a benefit for The Denver Actors Fund, which, in four years, has made more than $200,000 in medical relief available to members of the Colorado theatre community. Alamo donates 50 percent of all ticket proceeds from this fun monthly film series, which cleverly pairs a popular movie with a live appearance by a local theatre company staging a related musical.

    Cashelle Butler First Date QuoteFirst Date, which performs at the Galleria through April 22, follows a blind-date newbie who is set up with a serial dater. The audience follows along as a casual drink at a busy New York restaurant turns into a comically high-stakes dinner.

    We asked Butler and Harper about the life and challenges of an understudy, the importance of The Denver Actors Fund and Monday’s upcoming appearance at the Alamo.

    “I always find it an honor to be cast as an understudy,” said Butler, who attended Cherry Creek and Cherokee Trail high schools and graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “They are trusting me not only to know multiple roles, but to be able to come in at the last minute and keep the show running.”

    Butler was called on to perform in First Date just last week. “My castmates were all so supportive, helpful, trusting and incredibly fun to be on stage with,” she said. “They are a great group. You should all go see them shine, because they are truly amazing performers and human beings.”

    Harper, who graduated from Littleton High School and the University of Colorado Boulder, said understudies make it so that the lead actors don’t have to take unnecessary health risks for the sake of a single performance. “When an actor knows he has an understudy, he or she generally does a better job and is less likely to get sick because it removes the stress from feeling like they have the weight of the show resting on the unpredictable nature of human health,” he said. “They can focus on their craft with the confidence someone has their back.” 

    Choose your 500 Days of Summer screening seats here

    Join Butler and Barrett Monday for their live appearance at the Sloan’s Lake Alamo Drafthouse, hosted by film series emcee (and, coincidentally, First Date castmate) Steven J. Burge.

    In the meantime: Don’t forget to hug an understudy … but only if you’re healthy.

    Question: How is the importance of understudies heightened during cold and flu season?

    Cashelle Butler: That’s when understudies are especially vital. As a performer, you want to know that if you have to go out of the show, you aren't letting anyone down. Having an understudy gives you the peace of mind to know you can take the time you need to heal your body without any guilt. I want everyone to be healthy and happy and to never need me. But should that day come, I want to make sure nobody on stage has to worry about me or the show.

    BARRET HARPER QUOTE FIRRST DATEBarret Harper: Working as an understudy during cold and flu season requires extra vigilance and discipline. Your chances of performing skyrocket, but you are equally at risk for illness yourself. So staying fresh on the material and staying healthy are paramount.

    Question: What does it mean to you to help support The Denver Actors Fund on Monday?

    Cashelle Butler: It is both an honor and a privilege. While being an artist is incredibly rewarding, fun and exciting, it does not always afford us the stability and comfort that other jobs have. Life happens, and nobody should have to face life's worst turns alone. The Denver Actors Fund is there when you are going through your darkest days, offering help, support, hope and a reminder that this community is there for you and you are not alone. I feel so lucky to be a part of such a kind, supportive, genuinely caring community of humans and artists, and to be able to support the Denver Actors Fund is such a rewarding treat.

    Barret Harper: The Denver Actors Fund is the lifeline that connects the entire Colorado theatre community. It sends a message to the artists in this community that helping each other in our time of need makes our community and our art stronger. Individual actors generally don’t have the means to help others in a meaningful financial way, so the DAF provides a mechanism to transform our magnanimous spirit into something more tangible. It means the world to me to support an organization that has helped so many of my brilliant coworkers and friends over the past few years. 

    Question: Why should people come to see the screening of 500 Days of Summer on Monday?

    First Date Fall Casting Photo by Emily LozowCashelle: Everyone should hang out with us on Monday! When you support The  Denver Actors Fund, you are supporting Denver's community of actors. And you get to hear a few songs from First Date. Plus, Steven J. Burge is the funniest, most lovely and prettiest human around. He will make you laugh so hard you will leave with a washboard stomach. You also get to ogle Barret Harper and listen to his gorgeous voice. You'll get to eat popcorn and drink beer and watch one of the cutest movies of all time — which is not coincidentally quite similar to First Date. You get to escape the world for a few hours and hide in a movie theatre and believe in love.

    (Pictured: Seth Dhonau and Adriane Leigh Robinson in the DCPA's 'First Date.' Photo by Emily Lozow.)

    Barret Harper:  People should come knowing they will be contributing to an organization that is dedicated to directly helping the local theater community. You can see your donated money in action every time you see the actors perform. You become a part of the art in a meaningful way.

    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. He is also the founder of The Denver Actors Fund.

    Meet the cast: More fun to read than any dating profile!

    500 Days of Summer: Benefit film screening:
    What: Denver Actors Fund screening of the film 500 Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel
    Who: Live pre-screening entertainment from DCPA Cabaret's First Date.
    When: Monday, Jan. 22: Entertainment 6:30 p.m.; film at 7
    Where: Sloan's Lake Alamo Drafthouse, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    First Date: Ticket information
    First DatePerformances through April 22
    Tickets: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    At the Garner Galleria Theatre

    The book is written by by Austin Winberg. Music and Lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. Orchestrations by August Eriksmoen. Vocal and Incidental Music Arrangements by Dominick Amendum.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of First Date:
    Video: Photos: Your first look at First Date
    Check out the all-local cast of the Denver Center's First Date


    Video bonus: Cashelle Butler visits Cherry Creek High School:

  • 2017 True West Awards: Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill

    by John Moore | Dec 30, 2017
    2017 True West Awards The Breakouts  Jeremy Rill Steven J. Burge

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 30: The Breakouts

    Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill are very different performers. Think Sean Hayes and Frank Sinatra. Burge will shock you into gut-busting laughter, while Rill will make you swoon. If Burge is the flamboyant life of the party, then Rill is more, say … sunset on the beach.

    “If there is a spectrum,” said director and actor Robert Michael Sanders, "those two are on the opposite ends of it.”

    The comedian and the crooner.

    Steven J Burge and Jeremy Rill But these two emerging actors have far more in common than you might think. Both had big-time breakout years on Denver stages in 2017 — and both were separately described as “the nicest guy in Denver theatre” in interviews for this very story.

    Something's gotta give.

    Steven Cole Hughes, Burge’s castmate in the Denver Center’s extended hit comedy An Act of God, goes so far as to declare with dead-on eye contact that “Steven Burge is the nicest guy working in the American theatre today. Period.”

    Even Hughes’ 2-year-old daughter, Birdie, backed her father up.

    “Hey Birdie, who is this?” Hughes said, pointing to a poster for An Act of God. The child’s face immediately lit up. She pointed to a photo of Burge playing no less than God Himself, and she declared enthusiastically: “Steven!”

    “She’s 2,” Hughes reiterated. “Even the 2-year-olds love Steve Burge.”

    That’s high praise (or short praise, come to think of it) for Burge, who has been working his way up to this moment with one joyful performance after another since moving from Iowa in 2003, most often in extroverted comic roles. Highlights have included playing Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors and conquering the epic challenge of playing 40 roles in the one-man comedy Fully Committed. In 2012, Westword’s Juliet Wittman flatly declared, “Steve Burge is one of the funniest actors anywhere.”

    Says his friend and fellow actor Shannan Steele: “I love watching him delight in making others happy.”

    But Burge’s body of work has revealed far greater range and uncommon emotional honesty in stagings such as Dog Sees God at The Avenue Theater (I called him "triumphant" in The Denver Post) and Curious Theatre’s Speech and Debate. No matter how big the character Burge is called upon to play, “you always know there's a real and very interesting person underneath," Wittman wrote.

    (Story continues after the photo.)

    Steven J. Burge United in Love Photo by John Moore
    Steven J. Burge co-hosted the 'United in Love' benefit concert with Eden Lane that raised $40,000 for The Denver Actors Fund.  Photo by John Moore.


    But Burge’s steady career trajectory took a turn for the skyward late last year when he was hired by Director Geoffrey Kent to be the understudy for An Act of God, a pointed social comedy in which God comes down to Earth in human form to set the record straight about the misguided ways in which we sometimes act in God’s name. When Broadway and TV star Wesley Taylor’s contract expired, the Denver Center did not seek out a similarly big-named national replacement. It already had Burge, who smoothly ascended to Almighty status for what turned into an extended run at the Galleria Theatre. The role called on all of Burge’s comic skills, as well as his uncommon gift to make people listen and laugh, even when they might not like what he is telling them. Burge had An Act of God audiences eating out of his holy goblet.

    To say that Burge made an impression in his Denver Center debut would be an understatement.

    “Steven has spot-on comic timing, a fantastic voice and the best rehearsal attitude and esprit de corps I know of,” said Kent. “He improves the quality of everything he touches.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    A few months later, Director Ray Roderick punched Burge's ticket for an immediate return trip to the Galleria Theatre in the musical comedy First Date. Gigs at the Galleria are considered jackpot jobs among local actors because they generally come with a minimum six-month contract.

    Burge plays many characters in First Date, most notably the quintessential gay best friend of a young woman who’s just starting to brave the dating pool. The reason Burge succeeds at taking such a stock character and making him meaningfully connect with an audience, says Steele, is his willingness to bring his authentic self to all his roles.

    “The thing you need to know about Steven is that just beneath his hilarious and charming exterior is a beautifully tender, vulnerable, compassionate and generous person,” she said.

    “Steven is the opposite of an old soul. He is brand new to his world ... and his childlike wonder and joy are palpable.”

    800 Red Hot and Cole Cherry Creek Theatre Jeremy Rill Phot by Olga LopezHe’s now being rewarded for paying his many dues, and everyone agrees — it could not be happening to a nicer guy. For years, Burge has been known for saying yes to anyone who asks for his time and talents. This year, he co-hosted a benefit concert at the Lone Tree Arts Center that netted $40,000 for the Denver Actors Fund, and Miscast 2017 at the Town Hall Arts Center, which raised $7,000 more. He also has kept the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards buzzing along since 2012 with his unpredictable comic energy as co-host with GerRee Hinshaw.

    "To me, Burge encapsulates the heart and soul of the Denver theatre community,” Kent said. “He volunteers for almost every arts organization I can list. If Denver were to elect a ‘Theatre Ambassador,’ he would have my vote.”

    Also receiving votes for Nicest Guy in Denver Theatre would be Jeremy Rill, an Arkansas native who already was a big deal in the lofty Chicago theatre scene when he moved to Colorado for love. And it didn’t take long for people to notice.

    “It's that voice,” said his frequent director, Kelly Van Oosbree. “The richness and his absolute control of it is remarkable. The first time I heard Jeremy open his mouth, I said, ‘This guy is going to be big.’ You just can’t deny that voice.”

    Coming Sunday: 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year

    The Performance Now Theatre Company in Lakewood was the first Colorado company to catch wise, casting Rill in the regional premiere of Jane Eyre (Edward Rochester), Guys and Dolls (Sky Masterson) and Ragtime (Younger Brother). By then it was becoming pretty obvious to anyone within earshot that Rill was going to be a man in demand this year.

    Jeremy Rill Miscast Photo by John MooreA lot more people know “that voice” after it opened up and sang for the first time on four different metro stages this year. Rill started out playing no less than Cole Porter himself in the Cherry Creek Theatre Company’s Red, Hot and Cole at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, landing quite cozily among a star-filled cast that included Steele alongside local big-shots Seth Dhonau and Lauren Shealy (both now co-starring with Burge in First Date), Damon Guerasio, Stephen Day, Matt LaFontaine, Sharon Kay White and several others.

    Rill then earned karma points for life when he was asked to join the ensemble of the Arvada Center’s Jesus Christ Superstar after the actor playing Judas had to leave the show for medical reasons. That set off casting dominoes that ended with Rill stepping onto one of the biggest theatre stages in the state a mere four hours before the first performance in front of an audience.

    There’s a reason Arvada Center director Rod Lansberry turned to Rill, whom he had never before cast, when the chips were down, Van Oosbree said. It’s that Sinatra cool.

    “If someone ever asked me to do something like that, I would have said, ‘No, thanks,’ ” Van Oosbree said. “But Rod knew Jeremy could handle the pressure. And he did.”

    That may be one reason karma has smiled back on Rill, who will return to Performance Now to play Cinderella’s prince in Into the Woods opening Jan. 5 at the Lakewood Cultural Center. He then joins the cast of the Arvada Center’s Sunday in the Park with George — and on the first day of rehearsal this time. Rill will play Louis, fiancé of the model who attracts the eye of an artist based on Georges Seurat.

    Superstar led to the 2017 performance that will put Rill on every director’s radar – and wish list — for years to come. Van Oosbree tapped Rill to head another dauntingly loaded ensemble in Stephen Sondheim’s Company for the Aurora Fox that included Shealy, Heather Lacy, Lindsey Falduto, Carolyn Lohr, Rebekah Ortiz, Heather Doris and many others.

    (Story continues below the video.)


    Video bonus: Jeremy Rill performs 'Everybody's Girl' at Miscast 2017:




    You knew going in that Rill would bring any production of Company to a thunderous finish with his take on the forceful ballad “Being Alive.” But what separates a good Company from a great one is an actor who understands that Bobby’s journey is a serious rumination on the relative pros and cons of choosing a married or solitary life. Rill allowed himself to get fully lost in his journey — which at times meant going inside and checking out from the Aurora Fox audience altogether.

    Turns out, as Van Oosbree plainly puts it: Jeremy Rill is not just another pretty voice.

    “He’s also a really good actor,” she said. “He found the vulnerable in Bobby and the underlying pain that I think sometimes goes missing in other performances. The easy thing would be to make Bobby a fun, jovial bachelor, but that’s just not who this man is. Jeremy was clever and he was sexy and he was charming and he was cynical and he was sad. He was all the things. He just killed it.”

    Wrote Ramsey Scott for the Aurora Sentinel: “Jeremy Rill nails the mix of aloofness and emotional despair that plagues his character throughout the show and matches it with a voice that deserves to be the center of attention.”  Added Wittman for Westword: "Jeremy Rill has a richly melodious and supple voice that’s sheer pleasure to listen to."

    Norell Moore by Jeremy RillAnd Rill’s artistry, by the way, is not limited to the stage. He’s also a disarmingly effective portrait photographer who is known for bringing out an astonishing clarity of character in a single frame. Look no further than his revealing portrait of fellow actor Norrell Moore (right) soon after she started chemotherapy for breast cancer.

    “I mean this as no disrespect to any other photographer,” said Sanders. “But if you put 100 random actor headshots in a pile in front of me, I could easily pick out the ones taken by Jeremy because he has such a distinctive style behind the camera. He just has a way of making actors look their best. Maybe it’s because he’s one of them. But somehow he manages to put a sparkle in the eye of every single person he photographs.”

    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 

    Steven J. Burge: 2017
    • The Almighty in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date
    • Co-Host, United in Love benefit concert
    • Co-Host, Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards
    • Co-Host, Miscast 2017
    • Multiple roles in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date

    Jeremy Rill: 2017
    • Man 1 (Cole Porter) in Cherry Creek Theatre’s Red, Hot and Cole
    • Ensemble in Arvada Center’s Jesus Christ Superstar
    • Aurora Fox’s Company
    • Emile de Becque in Platte Valley Players' South Pacific (concert version)
    • Performed in Miscast 2017 for the Denver Actors Fund

    Steven J Burge GerRee Hinshaw 2017 Henry Awards BLF Photography
    Steven J. Burge and GerRee Hinshaw co-hosting the 2017 Henry Awards. BLF Photography.


    About The True West Awards: '30 Days, 30 Bouquets'

    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore's daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

     

  • 2017 True West Award: Lauren Shealy

    by John Moore | Dec 16, 2017
    Lauren Shealy True West Award Photo by Emily Lozow

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 16: Lauren Shealy

    Lone Tree Arts Center
    Aurora Fox
    Denver Center for the Performing Arts

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The thing Lauren Shealy brought to Evita was teeth.

    The thing she brought to Company was … passive-aggressive karate.

    The thing she brought to First Date was … dead Grandma Ida. Oh, and Google Girl.

    The thing Shealy brings to every role she plays is her depth of feeling as both an actor and as a human being on this planet.

    Lauren Shealy Quote True West AwardShealy is an accomplished, homegrown actress and vocalist who is as adept at playing comedy as she is the most ambitious woman in history. (Broadway history at least!) Her résumé is impeccable, with more than 20 years of knockout performances around the country including a national tour of South Pacific, off-Broadway and multiple productions at the Denver Center and throughout the Denver area. Shealy is a Littleton native who can be the picture of 1940s elegance one minute — and rip her shirt open the next.

    Shealy first came to the Denver Center for its 2011 production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and returned for The Doyle and Debbie Show, Forbidden Broadway, A Christmas Carol, Sweeney Todd and now, the new musical comedy First Date.

    But the role that changed her life is the one that also changed her as a performer: Motherhood. Having a child left her raw, she says, and yet more brave. “My heart underwent profound renovations,” she said. “The current model has no walls, many doors – and seriously leaky faucets. Every day I wrestle with a delightful and terrifying mix of fear, love and humility.”

    It’s no coincidence then that the newly leaking, vulnerable, karate-chopping Shealy just knocked three consecutive and very different roles right out of the park. This year she headlined a high-profile production of Evita at the Lone Tree Arts Center alongside a primarily New York ensemble and not only held her own, she had the trailing masses both onstage and in the audience pawing at her fur. It was a gutsy portrayal of a legendary figure whose disputed legacy remains passionately divided 65 years after her death.

    Opening yourself up so fully can both make an actor better, and leave her utterly vulnerable. It’s done both to Shealy.

    “Encountering my best and worst self also has invited me to look at my stage characters differently,” she said. “I have more empathy for them and less judgment. When I look at Eva Peron, for instance, I don’t see a power-hungry manipulator of men. I see a passionate woman who wants to matter; wants to be loved. I see a fighter who uses street sense, wiles and alliances to gain the mobility she needs to realize her dreams.”

    Our full interview with Evita star Lauren Shealy

    Director Gina Rattan believes the real Eva, at her best, was a woman not all that dissimilar to Shealy. “Eva was giving, purposeful and driven,” Rattan said. “She wanted what was best for her fellow man. She stood behind her word and her deeds.”

    Lauren Shealy True West Aeard Lone Tree EvitaThe downfall of many a portrayal of Evita has been presenting the ruthless First Lady with perhaps too much sympathy. Shealy bared both her fangs and her heart, which is what Rattan said made Shealy “a dream” to work with — the very same word First Date Director Ray Roderick separately chose to describe Shealy.

    “Not only is Lauren effortlessly talented and effervescently positive, she has the discipline of a drill sergeant,” Rattan said. “I admire Lauren’s generosity of spirit, shimmering voice and her ability to bring searing truth to even the smallest moments.” 

    (Pictured: The money kept rolling in for Lauren Shealy and Miles Jacoby in Lone Tree Arts Center's 'Evita.' Below: Shealy and Kyle D. Steffen as Sarah and Harry in the Aurora Fox's 'Company.' Photo by Jeremy Rill — who also played Bobby.)

    Shealy followed Evita with an all-star production of Company at the Aurora Fox. That’s Stephen Sondheim’s melancholy musical rumination on the relative merits of solitude versus coupling. Surrounding bachelor Bobby (played by a terrific Jeremy Rill) are five married couples who unknowingly make strong cases for either life direction.

    Lauren Shealy Kyle Steffen Company Aurora Fox Photo by Jeremy Rill Photography Shealy played Sarah, a wife who is deluding herself with food, opposite a husband (Kyle D. Steffen) who is deluding himself about booze. The two walked a very thin tonal line between playful and pathos when they finally broke into a comically antagonistic display of the marital martial arts.

    Then came her current, long-term commitment to First Date, a musical comedy that explores the common pitfalls and pratfalls of contemporary dating, all in one pair’s first blind date. Shealy’s task is to play all the voices inside the dating woman’s head, real or imagined.

    First Date reunites Shealy with Roderick, her director on the daddy of all relationship musical comedies, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Roderick seeks out only the very best actors he can find, but he also proudly espouses choosing actors who show a kind generosity of spirit — actors like Shealy.

    “Lauren is as stunning and engaged in the process as she is onstage,” Roderick said. “She is a true pro with extraordinary range, and a dream to work with." (There’s that word again.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Actor Seth Dhonau has witnessed Shealy’s impressive range first-hand this year as her castmate in both Evita and First Date.

    denver-center_first-date_photo-by-emily-lozow lauren shealy“Working with Lauren, one can't help but strive to match the professionalism and preparation she so effortlessly brings to her roles,” Dhonau said. “Imbuing a performance with Lauren's positivity and energy is no small feat, and we're all so lucky to share the stage with her.”

    Audiences may not recognize the steely Argentinian in the taunting, imaginary ex-girlfriend Shealy portrays in First Date. And there’s no bigger compliment to Shealy, Rattan said.

    “I truly don’t know if there is anything she can’t do,” she said.

    (Pictured above right: Seth Dhonau, Steven J. Burge and Lauren Shealy in DCPA Cabaret's 'First Date.' Photo by Emily Lozow.)

    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.

    Lauren Shealy 2017: 

    • Evita in Evita, Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Sarah in Company, Aurora Fox
    • Woman I (six roles) in First DateDCPA Cabaret

    About The True West Awards: '30 Days, 30 Bouquets'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

  • Study: There's a lot of Denver in Denver Center casts this fall

    by John Moore | Dec 13, 2017

    Fall Casting 800 Photos by Adams Viscom

    Survey of DCPA cast lists shows 56 percent of all available jobs this fall have gone to actors who live in Denver area 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    There has been a lot of Denver at the Denver Center this fall. An analysis of cast lists for the eight shows presented since the start of September shows that 56 percent of all actors who have taken to a DCPA stage also call Denver home.

    That doesn’t even include the eight child actors who currently populate the Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol. And when you add in all the actors who grew up in Colorado but are now based elsewhere, the number of actors with local connections jumps to 67 percent.  

    “The Colorado acting community is such a multi-talented group, and that is evident in all the amazing work featured across the entire state and on every one of our stages at the DCPA this fall,” said DCPA Director of Casting Grady Soapes.

    The survey includes all homegrown programming offered by the DCPA, totaling 73 adult actor slots. Much of the local infusion this year can be traced to Off-Center’s immersive musical The Wild Party at the Stanley Marketplace, as well as DCPA Cabaret’s newly launched musical First Date at the Galleria Theatre, both of which cast entirely local actors.

    First Date Fall Casting Photo by Emily LozowFirst Date director Ray Roderick, who is based out of New York, is responsible for the longest-running musical in Colorado Theatre history, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, also at the Galleria, as well as The Taffetas, Five Course Love and many others. And while he is always empowered to cast actors based anywhere around the country, he almost always fills his Denver cast lists with Denver actors. Why? Because he can, he says.

    (Pictured above and right: Local actors Seth Dhonau and Adriane Leigh Robinson will be taking their 'First Date' through April 22. Photo by Emily Lozow.)

    “There is no question that there is a wealth of talent here in Denver,” Roderick said. “When I work at other regional theatre centers and I choose my cast, I’m often told, 'Well what have they done on Broadway?’ I never get that here at the Denver Center. The fact is, when you are casting a show, what matters is the story, period. And we have beautiful storytellers in Denver. That they happen to live in Denver has nothing to do with their level of talent.”

    It was the Denver Center’s Jeff Hovorka who convinced then-DCPA President Randy Weeks that the first staging of the Galleria Theatre’s Always…Patsy Cline back in 1997 could be effectively cast with local actors. Melissa Swift-Sawyer and Beth Flynn made Denver musical-theatre history when their show ran for three and a half years, only to be surpassed by I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, another all-local show that opened in 2000 and became Denver’s longest-running musical by 2004.

    “The three biggest successes in the Galleria Theatre history, including Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women, all have had local casts,” said Hovorka, now the DCPA’s Director of Sales and Marketing for Broadway and Cabaret. “Denver always has had an incredibly strong talent base, and we are always proud to celebrate the homegrown talent we have in this city.”

    Check out the all-local cast of DCPA's First Date

    The Wild Party Director Amada Berg Wilson, also the founder of a Boulder theatre company called The Catamounts, put 15 local actors to work on Off-Center’s risky plunge into immersive musical theatre, which was attended each night by 200 live party guests.

    “Having an all-local cast is evidence that we really do have the talent right here to pull off a show like this,” said Wilson. “And I think it is great that as the Denver Center continues to experiment with immersive theatre, we are developing a base of talent right here who have the tools and the vocabulary to make this specific kind of work. We are discovering that audiences are really hungry for more of it, and now we have the people here to do it.”

    michael-fitzpatrick-leslie-ocarroll-photo-credit-adamsviscom_24874516748_oThe list of local actors working for the Denver Center this fall spans beloved veterans such as Leslie O’Carroll, who is again playing Mrs. Fezziwig in the Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol, to first-timers such as longtime BDT Stage favorite Wayne Kennedy and Adriane Leigh Robinson, who just played Sally Bowles for the Miners Alley Playhouse’s Cabaret.

    (Leslie O'Carroll, right with 'A Christmas Carol' castmate Michael Fitzpatrick, is now the longest-tenured actor in the DCPA Theatre Company.)

    Longtime Galleria Theatre favorites Jordan Leigh and Lauren Shealy, now appearing in First Date, have built sustainable acting careers around steady work at the DCPA, including occasional crossover roles in Theatre Company productions. Shealy, headlined the Lone Tree Arts Center’s summer production of Evita that was nominated for Outstanding Musical by the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards.

    Colorado theatre favorite Steven J. Burge, who joined the Denver Center earlier this year to play none other than God in the long-running Galleria Theatre hit An Act of God, is back in First Date, which runs through April 22. This is a job, Burge says, “that I would not quit even if I won the lottery, because I love it so much.”

    Each May, the Denver Center holds three days of “general auditions” that are open to local actors to sign up for. This year a record 100 union and 275 non-union actors participated, directly resulting in many of the fall hirings.

    Many of the Denver Center’s current crop of actors have tentacles that reach throughout the Colorado theatre community from Creede Repertory Theatre (Diana Dresser and Emily Van Fleet) to Phamaly Theatre Company (Leonard E. Barrett), which exists to create performance opportunities for actors with disabilities.

    Michael Bouchard and Luke Sorge, the two actors playing David in Off-Center’s The SantaLand Diaries, are both company members with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, which was co-founded by occasional DCPA Theatre Company actor and Director Stephen Weitz.  

    The Theatre Company’s season-opening production of Macbeth included local playwright Steven Cole Hughes, also a longtime Teaching artist for DCPA Education and graduate of the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory. Robert O’Hara’s cast was a Denver Center reunion of sorts that also brought home Colorado natives Gareth Saxe, Erik Kochenberger and Skyler Gallun.

    Skyler GallunSaxe, a graduate of Colorado College and Denver East High School, played Scar for two years on Broadway in Disney’s The Lion King, but his DCPA Theatre Company roots go back to Cyrano de Bergerac in 2001. Kochenberger also graduated from East High School — but his was in Pueblo. Gallun, who previously appeared in Lord of the Flies, led a talkback with students from his alma mater, George Washington High School, after one Macbeth matinee (pictured at right by John Moore).

    DCPA Education head of acting Timothy McCracken, who has recently performed with both BETC (Outside Mullingar) and Local Theatre company (The Firestorm), landed this fall in both the Theatre Company’s Smart People and A Christmas Carol. His Smart People co-star Jason Veasey graduated from Coronado High School in Colorado Springs and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. His many past local credits include playing Jesus in Town Hall Arts Center’s Godspell.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This fall also has brought the launch of DCPA Education’s new Theatre for Young Audiences program. The three-person cast of The Snowy Day who performed Ezra Jack Keats’ beloved story for 19,000 pre-kindergarten through third-graders included longtime DCPA Teaching Artist Rachel Kae Taylor (also an NTC grad with three Theatre Company credits) and Robert Lee Hardy, who was recently seen in Vintage Theatre’s A Time to Kill In Aurora.  

    finalpdheadshots0005-web“This has been an exciting year not only for the local actors but for myself and the DCPA,” Soapes (pictured right) said of his local casting. “The dedication this organization has made to further highlighting the talent we have here in Denver has also deepened our appreciation for the artists who are working hard every day to entertain our audiences —  my hat goes off to them,” he said.

    Soapes said his top priority always will be to cast the best person for every role, regardless of ZIP code.

    “We here at the DCPA are excited to continue to tap further into the local talent pool, open our doors wider and show the entire industry why Denver is a destination for quality theatre,” Soapes 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.

    Grady Soapes Quote


    Denver Center Fall 2017 Casting:

    Macbeth: 17 actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Steven Cole Hughes as Doctor of the Psychic/Ensemble)

    Actors from Colorado:

    • Skyler Gallun as Donalbain/Ensemble
    • Erik Kochenberger as Hecate Two/Ensemble
    • Gareth Saxe as Duncan/Ensemble)


    'A Snowy Day. Rachel Kae Taylor, Robert Lee Hardy. Zak Reynolds. Photo by Adams Viscom.The Snowy Day:
    Three actor jobs

    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Rachel Kae Taylor as Archie, Amy, Mom and others
    • Robert Lee Hardy as Peter

    Smart People: Four actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Timothy McCracken
    Actors from Colorado:
    • Jason Veasey

    The Wild Party: 15 actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Brett Ambler as Gold
    • Leonard Barrett Jr. as Oscar D’Armano
    • Allison Caw as Sally
    • Laurence Curry as Black
    • Diana Dresser as Miss Madelaine True
    • Katie Drinkard as Mae
    • Trent Hines as Phil D’Armano
    • Drew Horwitz as Burrs
    • Wayne Kennedy as Goldberg
    • Sheryl McCallum as Dolores
    • Jenna Moll Reyes as Nadine
    • Marco Robinson as Eddie Mackrel
    • Emily Van Fleet as Queenie
    • Aaron Vega as Jackie
    • Erin Willis as Kate

    Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women: Three actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Barbara Gehring
    • Linda Klein
    • Amie MacKenzie

    A Christmas Carol (through Dec. 24): 21 adult actor jobs; eight youth jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Sam Gregory as Ebenezer Scrooge
    • Chas Lederer as Swing
    • Kyra Lindsay as Martha Cratchit/Ensemble
    • Chloe McLeod as Swing
    • Timothy McCracken as Ebenezer Scrooge understudy
    • Leslie O’Carroll as Mrs. Fezziwig/Ensemble
    • Jeffrey Roark as Jacob Marley/Ensemble
    • Shannan Steele as Ensemble
    • Marco Robinson as Ensemble

    A Michael Bouchard 800The SantaLand Diaries (through Dec. 24): Two actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Michael Bouchard as David
    • Luke Sorge as David understudy
    First Date (through April 22): Eight actor jobs

    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Adriane Leigh Robinson as Casey
    • Seth Dhonau as Aaron
    • Steven J. Burge as Man 1
    • Aaron Vega as Man 2 (Nov. 11-Dec. 3)
    • Jordan Leigh as Man 2 (Dec. 5-April 22)
    • Lauren Shealy as Woman 1
    • Barret Harper as Male Understudy
    • Cashelle Butler as Female Understudy
  • Vintage, Denver Center collaborate to bring 'Lady Day,' Mary Louise Lee, to stage

    by John Moore | Nov 20, 2017
    Lady Day Mary Louise Lee Adams Viscom Mary Louise Lee in the 2016 DCPA Theatre Company workshop of 'Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.' Photo by  AdamsVisCom.

     

    From First Lady to Lady Day: Billie Holiday musical to open at Vintage, then move to Denver Center's Galleria Theatre

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Mary Louise LeeWhen Mary Louise Lee revisited her signature role as Billie Holiday
    in a special workshop production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill last year, she dedicated the performance to Shadow Theatre Company founding Artistic Director Jeffrey Nickelson. Lee considers having played the jazz legend in 2002 to be the most meaningful performance of her storied career.

    It couldn't be more fitting, then, that when Vintage Theatre Productions brings the story to full stage life again this January with Lee in the title role, she will be be performing in the Jeffrey Nickelson Auditorium. 

    Nickelson, who died in 2009, was a graduate of the DCPA’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program. In 1997, he founded Shadow Theatre to present “stories from the heart of the African-American community,” as he liked to say. And the biggest hit in Shadow’s history was that 2002 production of Lady Day, with Nickelson directing and Lee starring as Holiday.

    Lady DayFor her haunting portrayal of a woman with a singular singing voice — and a lethal heroin habit  — Lee won a Westword Best of Denver Award for Best Actress in a Musical. The review said: “A stunning evening of theatre. Lee's singing is absolutely radiant. Her voice is smooth as glass. At times she sounds uncannily like Holiday, at others entirely like her full-throated self." She reprised the role for a special three-day workshop engagement in 2016 at the Denver Center's Jones Theatre. 

    After Nickelsen died of a heart attack in 2009, the theatre he opened at 1468 Dayton St. in Aurora was renamed the Jeffrey Nickelson Auditorium. Vintage took over operations there in 2011. 

    Berry HartToday, Vintage and the Denver Center announced an unprecedented collaboration. Vintage will introduce its new production of Lanie Robertson's Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, starring Lee and directed by Betty Hart (pictured right), from Jan. 12 through Feb. 18. The production will then move to the Denver Center's Garner-Galleria Theatre on March 5 and perform there on Monday nights through April 23 — while the Denver Center's ongoing musical comedy First Date continues its run for the rest of the week.

    Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill tells Holiday's troubled life story through the songs that made her famous, including "God Bless the Child," "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "Strange Fruit" and "Taint Nobody's Biz-ness." Set in Philadelphia in 1959, Holiday's performance at Emerson's Bar & Grill was one of her last, and Lady Day is not just a memorable tribute to the singer, but also a moving portrait of her struggles with addiction, racism, and loss.

    "We're thrilled, of course," said Vintage Theatre Artistic Director Bernie Cardell. "This is an exciting event for Vintage and for the theatre community overall. If we are to thrive, collaboration is the key. While we certainly can survive on our own, we can reach bigger heights together. My hope is this is just the start of a new way of producing quality theatre for our community."

     Lady Day Mary Louise Lee. 2002Lee's performing career began at the Denver Center when she appeared in Beehive at what is now the Garner Galleria Theatre while only 18 years old and still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. In 2011, Lady Day also became the First Lady of Denver when her husband, Michael B. Hancock, was elected Mayor.

    (Pictured right: Mary Louise Lee in rehearsal for her award-winning turn in 'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill' for Shadow Theatre in 2002.)

    Lee has performing at many high profile events over the past two decades, including the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions. She performed with the Colorado Symphony at the 911 Remembrance Ceremony, and in the First Ladies of Jazz concert. She has sung the national anthem before 78,000 Denver Broncos fans, was featured vocalist at the grand opening of Union Station was a Season 9 contestant on America's Got Talent.  She has toured internationally performing for the troops of the U.S. Department of Defense. She returned to the DCPA in 2014 to sing with the cast of the national touring production of the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet onstage at the Buell Theatre. And last December, Lee won a 2015 True West Award for her performance in the new musical, Uncle Jed's Barbershop.  

    Read John Moore's Denver Post profile of Mary Louise Lee

    Mary Louise Lee The Wiz. AfterthoughtSome of Lee's other notable local theatre performances have included Vogue Theatre’s A Brief History of White Music, the Arvada Center’s The 1940s Radio Hour, Country Dinner Playhouse’s Ain’t Misbehavin', Denver Civic’s Menopause the Musical and Afterthought Theatre Company's The Wiz, as Glinda the Good Witch (pictured right). She took on that role just after Hancock was elected in 2011.

    From students to senior citizens, Lee is committed to being an ambassador for the arts to help expose and expand access to Denver’s vibrant arts and cultural communities. She is choir director at the New Hope Baptist Church and founder of “Bringin’ Back the Arts," a foundation that encourages arts education in the public schools.

    Betty Hart, the director, recently moved to Denver from Atlanta, where she was a Teaching Artist at the Alliance Theatre. She is the Special Projects Coordinator for Kaiser Permanente Arts Integrated Resources program and recently joined the board of directors for the Colorado Theatre Guild.

    The Music Director will be Trent Hines. He was most recently the conductor and pianist for The Wild Party at the Stanley Marketplace, and he also performed in the show.


    A Lady Day Westword

    Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill: At Vintage Theatre

  • Jan. 12-Feb 18, 2018 (Note: The Feb. 3 show will be performed by Shandra Duncan)
  • 1468 Dayton St., Aurora
  • Tickets $15-$34
  • Call 303-856-7830 or BUY ONLINE


  • Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill: At the Garner-Galleria Theatre

  • March 5-April 23, 2018
  • Denver Performing Arts Complex
  • Tickets start at $42
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • The show runs approximately 90 minutes without intermission
  • Adult language and content
  • Age Recommendation: 17 and over
  •  

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Video: Mary Louise Lee sings with Million Dollar Quartet:

    Video: Watch Mary Louise Lee sing 'Fools Fall in Love' with the cast of  the national touring production of 'Million Dollar Quartet' at the Buell Theatre in 2014.

  • After 16 years, meet Dixie's maker: Kris Andersson

    by John Moore | Aug 02, 2017

    Kris Andersson. Photo by John Moore or the DCPA.
    Playwright Kris Andersson, creator of fast-talking Tupperware saleswoman Dixie Longate, has now sold 170,000 tickets around the world and grossed $6 million in revenue. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    How a playwright turned a Tupperware Party into an enduring and cathartic theatrical franchise

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    When Dixie Longate first encouraged an 85-year-old woman named Dolly to shout out the words “F Off,” she blushed. This genteel older lady from Huntsville, Ala., had never said those words out loud in her life, she told Dixie, and she wasn’t about to start now, in front of 300 people.

    But something changed as that evening’s performance of Dixie’s Tupperware Party progressed. Dixie, the creation of playwright Kris Andersson, wasn’t trying to goad this proper lady into saying a dirty word.

    “Dixie was trying to get her to revel in her own strength,” he says. 

    Dixie is a fictional stage character, but a very real Tupperware salesperson. In fact, Dixie has sold $1.5 million of the durable plastic wares over the past 16 years, twice ranking as the nation’s leading Tupperware seller.

    But the party is also a wildly successful play that has drawn capacity crowds in small towns and major cities alike ranging from New York, Los Angeles, Des Moines, Edinburgh, Nashville, Sydney, Fort Worth, and right now Denver, where Dixie’s record sixth engagement at the Garner Galleria Theatre continues through Sunday (Aug. 6).

    Dixie Longate is a hot Hazard County incarnation of Australia’s Dame Edna. Part Mary Poppins and part Oprah Winfrey. She’s a tall drink of water with fiery red hair and a tasteful polyester rodeo dress adorned with half-naked cowboys. As the story goes, Dixie packed up her catalogues, left her three children back in an Alabama trailer park and is now traveling the country gathering all of you lovely ladies and handsome gents together to talk all about your food storage options. And if you’re lucky, she might take you out back behind the dumpster and, you know … do some stuff.

    Dixie’s Tupperware Party, Andersson is first to say, isn’t changing the world. But since 2001, it has changed the lives of countless women who have seen it.

    Women like Dolly in Hunstville, Ala.

    Brownie_WiseIn the show, Dixie draws upon the example of Brownie Wise (pictured at right), a pioneering Georgia divorcee who was largely responsible for the success of Tupperware through her ingenious idea to sell plastic bowls and cups at home parties. In 1954, Wise became the first woman to appear on the cover of Business Week magazine – and a role model for generations of women to come.

    “Brownie was told her idea was dumb and that she had no business being in a male-dominated world,” Andersson said. “And do you know what she said? ‘F You.’ ”

    Only she spelled out the F.

    Dixie tells that story in her play, which has now sold 170,000 tickets around the world and grossed $6 million in revenue. Andersson has now surpassed 1,100 performances – “a milestone that any show would be proud to have reached,” he said. Women come in groups to giggle at Dixie’s obliviously sweet style of naughty humor with no idea how unexpectedly cathartic the story can be.

    Dixie to perform standup benefit for Denver Actors Fund on Aug. 6

    “Dixie is not far off from the Brownie Wise model,” Andersson says. “She’s been talked down to by society. She’s been told she’s good for nothing. She has been on the losing end of a lot of moments in her life. Just like a lot of women who come to see our show.”

    The message they hear from Dixie, Andersson says, “is that you are not beholden to anyone else’s idea of who you are supposed to be. You, too, can pick yourself up by the bootstraps and make a better life for yourself. People want Dixie in their lives because she represents a kind of strength they maybe don't have or see in themselves.”

    Later in that Alabama performance of Dixie’s Tupperware Party, that message had become clear. Dixie again approached Dolly and asked if she would like to say the words “F You” out loud.

    Dolly not only said it, loud and proud, she got a raucous standing ovation for it.

    And then Dolly asked with released glee: “Can I say it again?”


    Kris Andersson. Photo by John Moore.
    Photo of Dixie Longate by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    The man behind the C (and Sippy) Cups

    While you can’t miss Dixie in her high heels and big hair, you’d never know Kris Andersson walking past you on the street. Seeing Dixie onstage in no way prepares you to encounter this surprisingly slight and soft-spoken playwright with the short-cropped blonde hair who gets immersed each night in the persona of Dixie.

    But after 16 years, Andersson has decided this is the right time to step out from behind Dixie’s shadow and give the world a small peek at the man behind the woman. Or more accurately, the playwright behind the play.

    He thinks.

    “I do feel a little skittish about that, I will admit,” he said, “because people love to play in the world of Dixie. And that is a great world. I mean, she’s kind of a fun broad. But this show is also a real call to action that if you want a different life or to be a different person, you can do it. And we think now after the success we have had, that maybe now is the perfect time to take that message to a larger platform.”

    So, who is this Kris Andersson? Just an average kid from Pittsburgh, of all places, who got his degree in acting at the University of Southern California. He was a film and TV actor living in L.A. in 2001 when his roommate hosted an actual Tupperware party, only to discover that Tupperware pays better than waiting tables. The idea for Dixie was born out of that party.

    Donna Reed "At first, I created her as this 1950s Donna Reed housewife who pops too many pills,” Andersson said. Dixie started with “a completely horrible, haphazard look.” He compares Dixie’s initial hairstyle to roadkill. 

    “But I refined her over time,” he added with a laugh, eventually deciding that Dixie would get a better response if she were more a contemporary redneck American woman.

    Andersson created Dixie as a kind of performance art – she started hosting real Tupperware parties that were held in people’s homes in Southern California. And when The Orange County Register covered one such party in 2003, interest in Dixie exploded. Soon she was hosting 25 parties a month. Still, there were no plans for the stunt to become anything bigger until a friend suggested he develop his material into a live theatre piece.

    Andersson entered Dixie’s Tupperware Party in the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival on a lark … and got in. Problem was, he had not yet written a word of the play. 

    “I remember getting a thick envelope in the mail a couple of months later, and I was like, ‘Oh, crap. That’s an acceptance letter – and we don’t have a show.”

    But by the time the festival closed, Andersson not only had a show, he had an instant and sustainable hit. Andersson further honed his script over the next three years before finally debuting Dixie’s Tupperware Party off-Broadway in 2007 under the direction of Alex Timbers, who later came into fame for creating Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Peter and the Starcatcher. Andersson reworked the show a bit further with director Patrick Richwood, took the show on the road the next year and hasn’t stopped touring since. 

    The secret to Dixie’s success

    Andersson discovered almost immediately the uncanny resonance his character was having on his audiences. A half hour before any show is to start, Dixie comes out to the theatre lobby and mingles with arriving theatregoers. She also lingers with them for up to an hour after the show because, Andersson said, “people just want more Dixie.” And that is when the connection becomes an unshakeable bond.

    “You don’t have Idina Menzel coming out after Wicked and hanging out with people as the witch,” Andersson said. “There is something unique about this that really connects with the fan base.”

    Audience members, especially women, love to sit down with Dixie and chat with her one-on-one about her ridiculous fictional Alabama trailer-park world and her latch-key children Wynonna, Dwayne and 3-year-old Absorbine Jr. He’s got the shakes, that poor kid – but he smells good. Wynona is 16 and works nights at the local Hooters. The place closes at midnight, but the weird thing, Dixie tells us, is that she’s always getting home at 5 a.m., and her hair’s all screwed up.

    Dixie can fire off an improvised quip about as easily as setting a match to a sparkler. Mothers snicker, but they relate to Dixie’s tall family tales in profound ways. And she always makes a point to ask these women to tell her their stories, too. One thing Andersson quickly picked up on when creating the show is that women – and especially mothers – almost always talk about themselves through the other people in their lives. They identify themselves through their husband’s profession, or their kids’ school activities.

    “They never talk about themselves,” Andersson said. “Their lives don’t seem to be framed through their own eyes. It’s as if their self-worth is being completely determined by the things around them.”

    People tend to trust Dixie with personal information she should really never have. “In the past, people have told her they are very unhappy, or that they are trying to figure out how to get out of a bad marriage situation,” Andersson said. “They turn to Dixie as though she were a therapist. They feel safe with her, and she feels honored and privileged to have their trust. I think they recognize in Dixie this garish, outlandish, strong character, and she’s got something in her that they want to find in themselves. They want to figure out how to be as strong as Dixie.”

    But while the show is ultimately an empowering tale of self-worth, it’s also funny. Often extraordinarily, inappropriately funny.

    At one party, Dixie produced a Barbie kid set complete with four mini-Tupperware cups, plates and a pitcher. Dixie called it her “Mini-Alcoholic Starter Kit,” and an elderly woman immediately bent over and started choking. The show stopped. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, she is having a heart attack,’ and everybody rushed to her side,” he said. Turns out, the woman laughed so hard she coughed her fake teeth out of her mouth and into her hand. “When she recovered herself and saw that she no teeth, she just shoved them back in,” Andersson said.

    The thing that makes Dixie such a refreshingly original character for the American theatre, Andersson says, is that she's no better than you, and she knows it. “She is broken, damaged, and shattered,” he said. “So when she says things that are so ridiculous and inappropriate and she tells people they are stupid to their face, there is no malice in it. That’s what makes it so funny. This is not some weird, subversive off-the-beaten path piece. This is a mainstream piece in a non-mainstream package.”
     

    Kris Andersson. Photo by John Moore.

    Kris Andersson has now performed as Dixie Longate at the Denver Center's Galleria Theatre for more than 40 weeks over six stops. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Dixie does Denver, again and again

    Despite the ongoing success of Dixie’s Tupperware Party across the United States and in five countries, Dixie has made a home in Denver like no other place. Three years ago, the Denver Center commissioned Andersson to write and perform his exhaustively titled sequel,Dixie’s Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull (And 16 Other Things I Learned While I Was Drinking Last Thursday). Combined, Andersson has now played Dixie for more than 40 weeks at the Denver Center’s Garner Galleria Theatre.

    “There are people in Denver who are giddy whenever we come back,” he said. "People leave the show and say, ‘See you next year,’ and that gives me great pride.” There are returning audiences who see Dixie so often, he said, they think she actually lives in Denver.

    “There is a buzz whenever Dixie Longate comes back to the Denver Center,” said DCPA CEO Janice Sinden. “This character and this playwright are part of the DNA of this place, and we are proud to have played our small part in helping to establish Dixie and Kris as the authentic artists they are.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    But now having toured as Dixie nonstop for more than a decade, Andersson is taking stock of the franchise he has built from scratch as a writer, actor and self-producer, as well as the best way to take Dixie into the future. The one thing he knows is that he is in no way done with Dixie.

    A Kris Andersson QUOTE“The opportunity to work with one character and get to know one soul so well is such a unique opportunity that few people ever get,” he said. “So I don’t know when the heels will come off for the last time. I want her to be remembered as this great cougar you want to have sex with and go to the bar with for as long as I can make that happen, hopefully on bigger and bigger platforms. I don't think she has an expiration date yet. I think there are a lot more milestones to reach.”

    One of those milestones, of course, would be television. Andersson could continue to bring Dixie before live audiences that range from a few hundred to several thousand at any given performance. But if Dixie were to land a sit-com platform, several million people could potentially see her in one night. That’s a lot of new lives that could be touched.

    “I feel incredible joy and pride in what I have been able to accomplish personally as a writer, actor and as a producer,” Andersson said. “This show has moved people. It has inspired people to change things in their own lives. That’s why I want to bring it to more people. We have only scratched the surface.”

    TV is a big dream, he admits. But then again, so was Brownie Wise’s. “To me, that is the universal message of our show – that you can still be positive and happy having achieved close to your goal,” he said. “But never lose sight of the big prize – because that prize is what keeps you getting out of that bed in the morning.”


    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.

    Video bonus: Dixie's Denver Dialogues


    Dixie's Tupperware Party:
    Ticket information
    Dixie’s Tupperware PartyAt a glance: Dixie Longate, the fast-talking Tupperware Lady, packed up her catalogues, left her children in an Alabama trailer park and took Off-Broadway by storm. Now, join Dixie as she travels the country throwing good ol’ fashioned Tupperware parties filled with outrageously funny tales, heartfelt accounts, giveaways, audience participation and the most fabulous assortment of Tupperware ever sold on a stage.
  • Presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts
  • Through Aug. 6
  • At the Garner Galleria Theatre
  • Tickets start at $39
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


  • No Instructions: A Denver Actors Fund benefit

    Dixie_No_Instructions_homepage_slider_960x430Dixie Longate is also presenting No Instructions, a one-night-only standup benefit for The Denver Actors Fund, at the Galleria on the evening of Aug. 6. INFO
  • Video: Dixie's Denver Dialogues

    by John Moore | Jul 27, 2017


    Dixie is back in Denver, and in honor of her record sixth visit to the Mile High City, we present to you Dixie's Denver Dialogues, a series of brief but assuredly profound exchanges with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore. In the fifth and final part, Dixie talks about how her show may positively affect your life, if not your literacy. Think of it as a sequel to our Dixie Does Denver video series in 2014.

    Dixie's Tupperware Party plays the Garner Galleria Theatre through Aug. 6. She will also be presenting No Instructions, a one-night-only standup benefit for The Denver Actors Fund, at the Galleria on Aug. 6.

    Dixie's Tupperware Party: Ticket information
    At a glance: Dixie Longate, the fast-talking Tupperware Lady, packed up her catalogues, left her children in an Alabama trailer park and took Off-Broadway by storm. Now, join Dixie as she travels the country throwing good ol’ fashioned Tupperware parties filled with outrageously funny tales, heartfelt accounts, giveaways, audience participation and the most fabulous assortment of Tupperware ever sold on a stage.
  • Presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts
  • Through Aug. 6
  • At the Garner Galleria Theatre
  • Tickets start at $39
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Dixie Longate. Photo by John MooreDixie Longate, back in Denver. Photo by John Moore.
  • Dixie Longate comedy benefit for Denver Actors Fund on Aug. 6

    by John Moore | Jul 24, 2017

     

    Dixie brings her unique brand of standup comedy to the Denver Center in support of a great local cause.

    Dixie Longate will perform No Instructions, a one-night-only benefit for The Denver Actors Fund, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6, at the Garner Galleria Theatre.

    Like Momma always says, "You can take the girl out of the trailer, but you can't have sex with a stranger if you already know their first name." It's this kind of learning that made Dixie Longate one of Denver's favorite gals. 

    Join Dixie as the famous, fast-talking Tupperware Lady puts the bowls on the shelf and lets down her hair in support of a great cause. She's seen a lot of places, met a lot of people and has a hell of a lot more stories to tell. FroDixiem her first date to the Last Supper, Dixie ain't holding nothing back. The taller the glass of sweet tea, the looser her lips get.

    You don't want to miss Dixie as she brings her unique standup comedy to Denver. No one under 21 admitted.

    The Denver Actors Fund is a grassroots nonprofit that serves as a modest source of financial and situational relief when members of the local theatre community find themselves in medical need. To date, The Denver Actors Fund has distributed almost $110,000 in direct financial assistance and provided about 400 hours of volunteer service to help local artists.

    Dixie Longate: No Instructions
  • Dixie No InstructionsPresented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts
  • 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6
  • At the Garner Galleria Theatre
  • All seats $25
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Meet the cast: Jamie Grayson of 'An Act of God'

    by John Moore | Jan 29, 2017
    Jamie Grayson. An Act of God


    MEET JAMIE GRAYSON

    Understudying the roles of God and Michael in An Act of God

    At the Denver Center: Debut. New York: Man in Chair in The Drowsy Chaperone and Narrator/Mysterious Man in Into the Woods at The MacHaydn Theatre. Tours and regional: Cats, Hairspray, A Chorus Line and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He is also an internationally recognized baby-gear expert who has been seen on “The Martha Stewart Show,” “The Today Show,” and speaks at events for new and expectant parents.

    • Twitter-sized bio: Sometimes actor/full-time baby-gear expert and "guncle." New to Denver and loving every minute. Fred Armisen *might* have played me in a movie.
    • Hometown: Little Rock, Ark.
    • Home now: I moved to Denver in July
    • Jamie Grayson. Baby Guy Website: babyguygearguide.com
    • Social media:  @TheBabyGuyNYC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
    • Training: BFA in Acting from the University of Mississippi
    • What was the role that changed your life? My first professional gig was in Shenandoah at The MacHaydn Theatre in Chatham, N.Y. I worked there every summer throughout college and a few years after. Summer stock taught me to be a quick study, taught me work ethic, and taught me the "play" in performing. There are not many theatres like this still around, and it's truly the best training a young actor can have. That place feels like home.
    • Why are you an actor? At its best, theatre is communion with an audience. There are not many true places of communion now. So to be in a room with strangers and tell them a story and get immediate engagement and energy back is just the absolute best feeling - so it translates well into my actual career.
    • What would you be doing if you weren't an actor: My "real" job is a baby gear expert/speaker/social media "personality" - LOL. I was on tour for years and grew weary of suitcase life, so I took a survival gig at a store and it ended up turning into an insane career that I love. I knew once I stopped acting I would go into education, so my current job combines my desire to educate and entertain. It's kind of perfect, and I feel very fortunate that I've found ways to begin bridging my two lives.
    • A Jamie Grayson Jodie FosterIdeal scene partner: Jodie Foster. I just love her. Always have. Always will. But also Meryl Streep, because ... duh.
    • Why does An Act of God matter? I was shocked at how intelligent the script is. It's not just some off-the-wall, slap-your-leg, laugh-until-you-hurt piece. It's quieter than that, but very funny and forces you to listen. On top of that, there are references to current events and sections that really make you question your "why" in "why I believe."
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of seeing it? Theatre is a time to shut your phones off, sit with people in the dark, and have an experience. I cannot tell you what your experience will be. I can only hope you have one.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      "...  to get better every day." Stagnation is a horrible thing.
    An Act of God: Ticket information
    • The story: God takes human form in this critically acclaimed new comedy direct from Broadway. He's finally arrived to set the record straight.
    • Through April 8
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Selected Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    An Act of God extends through April 8
    Steven J. Burge is following in God's footsteps
    Meet the cast: Steven J. Burge
    Meet the cast: Erik Sandvold
    Meet the cast: Steven Cole Hughes
    Video, photos: DCPA, Macy's help 'Make-A-Wish' come true
    Casting announced for An Act of God
    A day in the busy life of Director Geoffrey Kent
    Interview: Geoffrey Kent on a laugh-a-minute God
    Geoffrey Kent's 2015 True West Award

    More 2016-17 DCPA Theatre Company 'Meet the Cast' profiles:
    Aubrey Deeker, The Glass Menagerie
    Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, Frankenstein
    Meridith C. Grindei, Frankenstein
    Sullivan Jones, Frankenstein
    Mark Junek, Frankenstein
    Charlie Korman, Frankenstein
    Jennifer Le Blanc, The Book of Will
    Rodney Lizcano, The Book of Will
    Wesley Mann, The Book of Will
    Robert Manning Jr., The Christians

    Amelia Pedlow, The Glass Menagerie
    Jessica Robblee, Frankenstein
    John Skelley, The Glass Menagerie
  • 'An Act of God' extends; Burge ascends to Almighty status

    by John Moore | Jan 24, 2017
    Steven J. Burge An Act of God
    Steven J. Burge in the title role of the hit comedy An Act of God. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Steven J. Burge will assume the role of God in An Act of God starting tonight, and today the Denver Center for the Performing Arts announced that the hit comedy is being extended through April 8 at the Garner Galleria Theatre.

    An Act of God is directed by Geoffrey Kent and also includes Steven Cole Hughes as Michael and Erik Sandvold as Gabriel. Jamie Grayson joins the cast as understudy for God and Michael. 

    A Steven J. BurgeGod takes human form in An Act of God, the acclaimed new play direct from Broadway that opens with the Almighty tackling His greatest challenge yet: The Mile High City. He’s finally arrived to set the record straight about the commandments and other quotes that have been attributed to Him over time ... and He’s not holding back. The script is based on the critically acclaimed book written by God (otherwise known as "The Bible") and transcribed by David Javerbaum, a 13-time Emmy Award-winner for his work as a head writer and executive producer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

    The play premiered on Broadway on May 7, 2015, and ran for a limited run with God occupying the body of Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory"). The play returned to Broadway June 6, 2016, for another limited engagement starring Sean Hayes ("Will and Grace"). This production in Denver is one of the first regional productions of the hit comedy.

    Since making his Colorado debut in 2003 as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Burge has appeared on stages throughout the Denver metro area including the Denver Center, Curious Theatre, Arvada Center, Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret and many others. He is also the co-host of the Colorado Theatre Guild's annual Henry Awards.

    The role of God was was originated by Broadway star Wesley Taylor, whose contract ran through Jan. 22. Burge has been serving as understudy in the roles of God and Michael.

    The Denver creative team includes the DCPA's Lisa M. Orzolek (scenic design), Meghan Anderson Doyle (costume design) and Charles R. MacLeod (lighting design). Making his DCPA Broadway/Cabaret sound design debut is Anson Nicholson.

    Steven J. Burge, Erik Sandvold, Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God. Photo by John Moore.
    From left: Erik Sandvold, Steven J. Burge and Steven Cole Hughes in 'An Act of God.' Photo by John Moore.


    An Act of God
    : Ticket information

    An Act of GodThe story: God takes human form in this critically acclaimed new comedy direct from Broadway. He's finally arrived to set the record straight.
    • Through April 8, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • Tickets start at $47: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Selected Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Steven J. Burge is following in God's footsteps
    Meet the cast: Steven J. Burge
    Meet the cast: Erik Sandvold
    Meet the cast: Steven Cole Hughes
    Video, photos: DCPA, Macy's help 'Make-A-Wish' come true
    Casting announced for An Act of God
    A day in the busy life of Director Geoffrey Kent
    Interview: Geoffrey Kent on a laugh-a-minute God
    Geoffrey Kent's 2015 True West Award
  • A day in the busy, busy life of Geoffrey Kent

    by John Moore | Oct 11, 2016

    Geoffrey Kent An Act of God
    'An Act of God' Director Geoffrey Kent, right, with his cast, from left: Steven Cole Hughes, Erik Sandvold and Wesley Taylor. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    EDITOR'S NOTE: Artists are natural multitaskers. Perhaps that stems from a young age and the struggle to scrape together a reasonable living in the arts. The more you know – and the more you know how to do – the more likely you might be to pay your rent. But even when artists reach the top of their craft(s), they continue to find their services in great demand throughout their careers. Many continue to juggle a variety of creative duties, often on multiple shows at once. That is certainly the case at the Denver Center.

    Take Geoffrey Kent, for example. Kent is a Colorado native who started teaching classes with DCPA Education back in 1996 and debuted as an actor with the DCPA Theatre Company in Anthony Powell’s Hamlet in 2002. He won a 2015 True West Award for his performance as Iago for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. He’s also a certified stage-combat expert. Literally. He’s the former President of the Society of American Fight Directors, the largest organization of stage combatants in the world. In September, he became one of only 18 certified “Fight Masters,” and the youngest by a decade.

    With that kind of cred, Kent is also the resident Fight Director for all Theatre Company plays. He is also member of the Arvada Center's new resident acting company, where he will act in Bus Stop and direct Waiting for Godot. Kent will make his DCPA directorial debut when An Act of God premieres regionally at the Garner Galleria Theatre on Oct. 21. And while he’s been getting that Broadway comedy ready for opening, he’s also been choreographing the complicated stage combat in Frankenstein. And teaching weekly stage-combat classes at the Denver Center.

    Twenty years after his arrival at the Denver Center, Geoff Kent is as busy as any kid ever was trying to break into the business. In short, he continues to practice pretty much every theatre discipline he ever learned - at the same time. To illustrate the point, we asked him to take notes we could share with readers that show a day in the life of Geoffrey Kent. He chose Saturday, Oct. 1, just a few days before he completed his work on Frankenstein, and just a few days after starting on An Act of God with Broadway star Wesley Taylor in the role of The Almighty.

    Here is his report, in his own words:


    Titus Geoffrey Kent6 a.m.: I’m usually up at 6 because that’s when my “Titus Hates Cats” alarm goes off. Here’s how it goes: The cats enter the bedroom to ask for breakfast. Titus, my Chihuahua who thinks he’s a Great Dane, runs subtle interference by emerging from under the covers yammering at me at 100 mph. “OK, I’m awake! God! I mean, Dog!”

     6:15 a.m.: Breakfast consists of microwave poached eggs on toast - because I’m lazy. And coffee. Times 3. While over-caffeinating, I shoot off some emails about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Play On!  Project to DCPA Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy. The OSF is commissioning modern translations of every Shakespeare play – and Doug is writing three of them. His Henry VI Parts I and II will be read in a workshop in Boulder soon.

    6:30 a.m.: I’m wracking my brain trying to find the right kid to play Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol, which I will be directing next for the Colorado Springs TheatreWorks. I just cannot find that kid. Face palm. My wife, DCPA Teaching Artist Jessica Austgen, is adapting this version. We have a quick connection about the script - over yawns.

    7 a.m.: A walk with my proud post-cat-barking attack dogs.

    Geoffrey Kent An Act of God8 a.m. Saturdays are my busiest day of the week because, in addition to my other show duties, I work a three-hour Rapier and Dagger class at the Denver Center into the mix. I bike to work, taking the long route. I only live about 4 miles from the Denver Center, but I am really enjoying this gorgeous ride ... until I hit 15 miles, when I realize that 15 miles was a terrible and unnecessary choice to start the day. The soundtrack to Rock of Ages gets me through it. My God in An Act of God – Wesley Taylor – sings on that soundtrack, and I realize I am singing my God’s part. Badly. (PS: I say “my God”) a lot these days.

    9:30-12:30: My Rapier and Dagger class at the DCPA’s Newman Education building. That’s across Arapahoe Street from the Denver Performing Arts Complex. I have 16 swashbucklers in this class, with special guest Samantha Egle. (Who among many things is also house-managing for Denver Center shows that will be beginning at 1:30 p.m. today.) She is a mean sword-fighter to boot. On deck for today is fancy footwork and prise de fer – a move where the fencer takes the opponent's blade into a line and holds it there in preparation for attack. It literally means “taking the blade.”

    12:25 p.m.: I enjoy a brief visit from my talented wife, who is teaching an improv class nearby - and she brought coffee! – which is already bringing me to the brink of blissful caffeine overload.

    12:30 p.m. sharp: Class ends. I make a quick stairwell run to join my An Act of God rehearsal, which begins at 12:30 in the Orange Studio. Note to self: Remember to eat.

    An Act of God Scenic Design 12:31 p.m. I forget to eat. Rehearsal starts.

    12:32 p.m.: It’s fun to be working on An Act of God in the Orange Studio. As a longtime fight director I have… well … killed a lot of people in this room. Last week, in rehearsal for Frankenstein, we snapped some necks in this very same spot. Having multiple jobs is weird. (No snapped necks are anticipated for An Act of God.) 

    (Pictured above right: Erik Sandvold, Wesley Taylor and Steven Cole Hughes get a first look at the scenic model for 'An Act of God' at the Galleria Theatre.)

    12:32-5:30 p.m.: We work through the first half of the script. We are encouraged to localize the script, meaning to change jokes about New York to jokes about Denver. God is kind of a braggart at the top of the play. The conceit is that God is coming down to Earth to adapt the dusty 10 Commandments for these modern times. But because the very majesty of God might simply be too much for we mere mortals to handle, He takes on the far more approachable human form of a fabulously fun actor with just enough snark and charm. And he’s chosen Wesley Taylor, star of stage and screen ("Smash"). I encourage Wesley to make the bragging even braggier. So we add a bit where Wesley flashes his abs to the audience. This works. When you see them, you’ll know. We have a short discussion about how to best localize a joke about “the gayest area of Denver.” (It’s a surprise.)

    It's delightful to rehearse a comedy with a team of actors who have such amazing timing. Wesley’s castmates are longtime Denver favorites Erik Sandvold and Steven Cole Hughes.  Wesley is game for anything. We try 10 punchlines to a single joke. We settle on a favorite, only to abandon it for a better one five minutes later.

    Geoff Kent QuoteAt the end of the rehearsal, I get to give God notes. (Isn’t that weird?) A miniaturized version of Noah’s Ark is a set piece. I catch myself actually saying, “God: Can you cradle the ark like it’s a baby?"

    5:30 p.m.: We wrap An Act of God rehearsal for the day and make plans to work the second half of the play on Sunday. I then eat food … I think?

    6:45 p.m.: It’s fight call for Frankenstein. That means a preview performance is about to take place on the Stage Theatre. About 45 minutes before every show, all of the actors who have any physical contact with another actor during the show meet on the stage for a quick run-through of all violent stage business. This exercise keeps the actors sharp, and safe. It also helps them work these movements into their muscle memory. Frankenstein has lots of short bits of physical action, but this show is further complicated by the fact that two actors trade places each night playing the leading roles of Frankenstein and his Creature. I never remember who is playing the scientist and who is playing the monster on any given night until I show up. My fight captain is Rodney Lizcano, who also is an actor in the show. Because I can’t always be there, a Fight Captain is designated to help the actors with any concerns they may have. One of my fun tasks with Rodney is figuring out how to throw young Charlie Korman about the stage by his head - without actually throwing young Charlie Korman about the stage by the head.

    You really can leave nothing to chance when it comes to fight direction, because the safety of the actors is at stake. In my job, the No. 1 priority is and always will be, “Do no harm.” 

    One major challenge in Frankenstein is staging a moment of conflict between Frankenstein and the Creature that is staged on a massive coffin suspended above the stage by four ropes. Now imagine these two actors wrestling around on this very narrow piece of scenery that is hanging above the stage. Complicated by the fact that the lights go in and out during the scene. Also: The Creature’s eyes are closed. There is very … very little room for error.

    We run the scene. No one dies. … Success!

    7:30 p.m.: I watch the preview performance of Frankenstein. The young Charlie Korman head-toss toss goes well. I note a few tweaks for Rodney to fix the next day. I will next be working with these actors directly on Tuesday. I watched the show from the grid above the stage with Avi Levin (Charlie's understudy), and he hangs on every word for the entire show. It's infectious.

    Jessica Austgen Tartuffe9:30 p.m.: The creative team goes over notes with the cast. Some of the audience has stayed to watch the crew work on the show’s snowfall mechanics. We all say goodbye to amazing Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood, whose work is done, and he leaves town tomorrow. The end of the creative process is often a long series of slow goodbyes, only with no yearbooks to sign. Jason rocks.

     9:45 p.m.: Now I forget where I parked my car and wander the parking garage aimlessly. The bike helmet clipped to my bag fails to remind me that I did not actually drive the car to work today. Eventually I remember this ... and that I forgot to bring my bike lights. So I wait for my wife to finish her performance in the Arvada Center’s Tartuffe. She kindly comes for me and gives me a ride home.

    Midnight: I walk the dogs quickly. They are oddly silent. Surely they are saving their barks for the 6 a.m. wake-up call tomorrow.

    (Pictured above right: Geoffrey Kent's wife, Jessica Austgen, performing in the Arvada Center's 'Tartuffe.' Photo by Matthew Gale Photography.)


    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center.

    Geoffrey Kent Teaching
    In this 2015 file photo, Geoffrey Kent is shown conducting a stage swordsmanship class for DCPA Education. His students are Kyle Steffen, left, and fellow Teaching Artist Jessica Austgen (Kent's eventual wife.) Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    An Act of God
    : Ticket information

    • Oct. 15 through March 12, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: TBA
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Frankenstein: Ticket information
    • Through Oct. 30

    • Stage Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Geoffrey Kent:
    Geoffrey Kent on 'a laugh-a minute God'
    Casting announced for An Act of God
    Geoffrey Kent's As You Like It cast profile
    Geoffrey Kent's NewsCenter podcast on the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    Geoffrey Kent's 2015 True West Award
  • Director Geoffrey Kent on a 'laugh-a-minute' God

    by John Moore | Sep 08, 2016
    Geoffrey Kent quote. An Act of GodAn Act of God is a new comedy that imagines The Almighty is coming down to Earth to adapt the dusty 10 Commandments for these modern times. But because the very majesty of God might simply be too much for we mere mortals to handle, He takes on the far more approachable human form of a fabulously fun actor with just enough snark and charm. Imagine Jim Parsons or Sean Hayes — two popular TV sit-com actors who have played the role on Broadway.

    In Denver, no need to imagine Wesley Taylor. The Broadway and TV star (Smash) has been cast as the omnipotent one here.

    “Think of God as the perfect host of the perfect cocktail party … and he has the mic,” said Geoffrey Kent, a longtime actor and stage-combat expert who will be making his DCPA directorial debut when An Act of God premieres regionally at the Garner Galleria Theatre on Oct. 15. Kent calls the show part stand-up comedy… and part “Oprah.”

    In An Act of God, Kent said, “We get to watch God appear before us as a reflection of who we are now.”

    And who are we now?

    “Oh, we can be kind of terrible sometimes, and we can also be wonderful,” Kent said with a laugh. “And the same thing can be said of God.”

    An Act of God, written by 13-time Emmy winner David Javerbaum of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, is “laugh-a-minute funny,” Kent said – but in an occasionally thoughtful kind of way.

    “I think it pokes fun at the theist and the atheist equally,” Kent said. “But a comedy can ask meaningful questions just as well as a drama can. What’s joyful to me is that through the course of the play, we get to watch God learn something about himself — and that humanizes him.”

    The cast also includes Steven Cole Hughes as the angel Michael, Erik Sandvold as Gabriel and Steven J. Burge as understudy to God.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Kent is a Colorado native who attended Centaurus High School in Lafayette and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. He started teaching classes with DCPA Education back in 1996 and debuted as an actor with the DCPA Theatre Company in Anthony Powell’s Hamlet in 2002. He is the in-house Fight Director for all Theatre Company plays, and is a member of the Arvada Center's new resident acting company.

    “I never thought I would ever have an opportunity to direct a show at the Galleria Theatre,” Kent said, “and it’s thrilling.”

    An Act of God: Ticket information

    • Oct. 15 through March 12, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: TBA
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Selected Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Casting announced for An Act of God
    Geoffrey Kent's As You Like It cast profile
    Geoffrey Kent's NewsCenter podcast on the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    Geoffrey Kent's 2015 True West Award
  • DCPA announces casting for 'An Act of God'

    by John Moore | Aug 15, 2016

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts has announced that Broadway's Wesley Taylor, star and fan favorite in the NBC TV show Smash, will play God in the new comedy An Act of God making its Denver debut at the Garner Galleria Theatre starting Oct. 15.

    The King of the Universe is tackling His greatest challenge yet: the Mile High City. God takes the form of Wesley Taylor in An Act of God, a 90-minute comedy where the Almighty and His devoted Angels answer some of the deepest questions that have plagued mankind since Creation. He’s finally arrived to set the record straight … and He’s not holding back!

    Act of God 600Directed by Geoffrey Kent, An Act of God also includes Steven Cole Hughes as Michael and Erik Sandvold as Gabriel with Steven J. Burge (understudy God/Michael). The entire cast and director make their DCPA Broadway/Cabaret debut with An Act of God.

    An Act of God creative team features DCPA Broadway/Cabaret veterans, Lisa M. Orzolek (scenic design), Meghan Anderson Doyle (costume design) and Charles R. MacLeod (lighting design). Making his DCPA Broadway/Cabaret sound design debut is Anson Nicholson.

    An Act of God is based on the critically acclaimed book written by God and transcribed by David Javerbaum. Javerbaum is a 13-time Emmy Award® winner for his work as a head writer and executive producer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

    The play premiered on Broadway on May 7, 2015 and ran in an acclaimed, limited run through Aug. 2, 2015, starring God in the body of Jim Parsons. It was the first Broadway production of the 2015-16 season to recoup its initial investment. The play is currently playing a return engagement on Broadway starring Sean Hayes. This production in Denver is one of the first regional productions of the hit comedy.

    Tickets start at $35 and are on sale now at denvercenter.org. Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – and denvercenter.org – is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of An Act of God.


    An Act of God
    : Ticket information

    • Oct. 15 through March 12, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: TBA
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    BIOGRAPHIES

    WESLEY TAYLOR (God) most recently starred as 'the Emcee' in Signature Theatre's acclaimed production of Cabaret. On Broadway, he created the roles of "Lucas Beineke" in the original cast of The Addams Family and "Franz" in the original company of Rock of Ages, which garnered him a Theatre World Award (Outstanding Broadway Debut) and an Outer Critics Circle Nomination (Best Featured Actor). He has performed internationally and all over the United States, with extensive credits in Off-Broadway and Regional theatre. On Television, he's been seen on "The Good Wife" (CBS), "Looking" (HBO), "The Tomorrow People" (CW), "One Life to Live" (ABC), "The Tony Awards" (CBS) and 26 episodes as 'Bobby' on "Smash" (NBC). 

    As a writer, Taylor has created countless sketch comedy for the web (including the YouTube series, "Billy Green") and is the Co-creator/Writer/Star of "It Could Be Worse," which was sold to Participant Media and acquired by Hulu (and is now available on Vimeo on Demand). After his play "Cuckold" became runner-up in Manhattan Repertory Theatre's one act competition, The Actor's Fund produced a sold-out evening of six of his short plays last October, featuring Stockard Channing, Nathan Lane, and Debra Messing. In November of 2016, they will produce seven new shorts by Taylor. Anonymous Content is developing his series "Basics" for digital platforms. Twitter: @WesTayTay IG: @sirwestaytay

    GEOFFREY KENT (Director) is an actor, director and fight director based out of Denver Colorado. Recent directing work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest and The Comedy of Errors for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, 39 Steps, Grapes of Wrath, The Lying Kind and You Can’t Take it With You for Theatreworks, Metamorphoses and She Kills Monsters for the Aurora Fox. Geoffrey has worked as the resident fight director for CSF and the DCPA for 15 years and stages action across the U.S., including the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. As an actor Geoffrey has appeared with the DCPA Theatre Company (Hamlet, Richard III, Othello, Eventide, Superior Donuts), CSF (Mercutio, Iago, Benedick, Achilles) and numerous professional Colorado theatres. He teaches for the University of Denver and is a former instructor for the National Theatre Conservatory. 

    GOD (Playwright) is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere. His previous novels, The Old Testament, The New Testament, and The Koran, have sold an impressive five billion copies, with the first two in particular coming to be collectively regarded as something of a bible of their field. An Act Of God will be his first work written directly for the stage, although his 1827 comic romp The Book of Mormon was recently adapted into a successful Broadway musical. God lives in heaven with his wife, Ruth, and their children, Zach, Jesus, and Kathy.

    DAVID JAVERBAUM (Playwright) is a 13-time Emmy-winning former head writer and executive producer of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” He is the co-author of that show’s bestsellers America: The Book and Earth: The Book, and the sole author of An Act of God: A Memoir and What to Expect When You’re Expected: A Fetus’s Guide to the First Three Trimesters. His recently retired Twitter account @TheTweetOfGod has more than 2.3 million followers. He is also a Tony-nominated lyricist whose collaborations with songwriter Adam Schlesinger include the Broadway musical Cry-Baby, the Grammy-winning songs for Stephen Colbert’s Christmas special The Greatest Gift of All and Neil Patrick Harris’ opening number for the 2011 Tony Awards, “Broadway Is Not Just for Gays Anymore.” He created the talk show “No, You Shut Up!” with Henson Studios for Fusion. He served as a writer-producer for “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” writing the opening to this year’s Tony’s. He is the co-creator with Chuck Lorre of “Disjointed,” an upcoming pot-themed television show for Netflix.

    STEVEN COLE HUGHES (Michael/understudy Gabriel) has spent eleven seasons as an actor with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company, appearing in Just Like Us, Pride and Prejudice, All My Sons, Blue/Orange, The Lonesome West, The Three Sisters, The Misanthrope, Scapin, Measure for Measure, Love’s Labor’s Lost, Hamlet and Tantalus. He has spent six seasons with Creede Repertory Theatre and three seasons with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Other theatres include Curious Theatre Company, Arvada Center, Theatreworks, Theatre Aspen, Gulfshore Playhouse, Baltimore Centerstage, Portland Center Stage and Ensemble Studio Theatre. He has appeared on television in “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”  He has an MFA in Acting from the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory. 

    ERIK SANDVOLD (Gabriel) is an honors graduate of Northwestern University, Erik Sandvold has frequently performed major roles with the leading theatre companies in Colorado, including the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company, the Arvada Center, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and Curious Theatre Company, where he’s an Artistic Council Member.  Notable roles include:  the title roles in Nicholas Nickleby and the world-premiere musical Ichabod!; Lloyd Crowder in the world-premiere of Plainsong; and Mason Marzac in Take Me Out, for which he was named Top Actor by the Rocky Mountain News and awarded The Denver Post’s Ovation Award for Best Comic Performance.  He also won Ovation Awards for Best Solo Performance for playing all 36 characters in I Am My Own Wife and for the world premiere of Bubs: A One Man Musical, which he also performed at Fringe NYC in 2009. Erik has narrated more than 1000 books for the Library of Congress, including the Harry Potter series. 

    STEVEN J. BURGE (understudy God/Michael), a multi-award winning character actor, landed in Denver following national tours of …And Then They Came for Me and A Christmas Carol. Since making his Colorado debut in 2003 as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Steven has appeared on stages throughout the Denver-Metro area including the Denver Center, Curious Theatre, the Arvada Center, Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret, and many others. He was the recipient of The Denver Post Ovation Award for Best Solo Performance in Fully Committed (Aurora Fox), a one-man show in which Steven portrayed more than 30, different characters. The piece also earned him a Henry Award nomination, Westword’s Best of Denver Award and an Out Front Colorado Marlow Award. Steven has also been recognized for his work in Contrived Ending (Buntport Theatre) and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (Avenue Theatre).

  • Meet the Real(ish) Housewives of ... Cherry Creek?

    by John Moore | Apr 21, 2016
    The Realish Housewives: A Parody. Photo by Kirsten Miccoli

    Get ready, haute Denver: It's 'The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek: A Parody,'  opening May 3.  Photo by Kirsten Miccoli.

    NOTE: This story by John Moore was first published in Reign Magazine.

    If not for the ubiquitous, spore-like Real Housewives reality TV franchise, we might not ever have known there are gold-digging, finger-snapping, cat-fighting, hair-pulling, bed-hopping, beauty-salon divas from Orange County to Melbourne to Israel … to Cherry Creek!

    No, Denver has not yet sunk to the top of the trashy pile of housewives who have been immortalized for the past decade by the anachronistically titled Bravo! cable channel. We’re not in line for our own season following in the broadcast footsteps of those hallowed, heckled housewives of Beverly Hills, Potomac and Dallas.

    But we are next in line for the next-best thing: The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek is a live theatrical parody that opens May 3 in the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

    Comedians Kate James and Tim Sniffen are the co-creators of the Realish Housewives, a live stage show the duo customizes and localizes for each new city it visits. They both have backgrounds with Chicago’s famed Second City improvisational comedy empire, and at least one of them (James!) proudly professes to be a hardcore fan of the cable show, without a hint of hidden or even ironic shame.

    Realish Housewives QuoteThe comedy pair now have their Gucci bags packed for Denver to introduce to the world the, yes, Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek. Their names are Rovanka, Claudia Louise, Gwen, Desiree and Brooke.

    But who are they … really?

    “A Real Housewife of Cherry Creek is a woman whose confidence in herself is as high as the city she resides in,” says James. “She knows how to have a good time and doesn’t feel the need to apologize for it. And if she can’t be married to a Nugget, she’ll find a guy to put a nugget on her ring finger.”

    Reality TV is rife for pop-culture satire, but parody can be one of the most difficult forms to pull off when it might seem impossible to conjure material that is any more laughable than the source material already is. I mean, this is the TV series that brought us that poignant moment when Porsha Stewart, one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, thought the Underground Railroad was an actual railroad. You know … with trains and stuff.

    “The TV show we were inspired by is pretty ridiculous,” Sniffen admits, “so we wanted to have a stage show that gives people all they've come to expect, and a little bit more.”

    Sniffen harbors no delusions that The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek constitutes an evening of deep, thoughtful theatre. “This is not Waiting for Godot, he says, probably to the great relief of his target audience. “So grab a group of friends, grab some cocktails and get ready for a great night out.”


    Here’s more of our conversation with co-creators Kate James and Tim Sniffen:

    John Moore: Go out on a limb: What’s your favorite Real Housewives show of all time?

    Kate James: My favorite cast is New York. I love New York City, so I enjoy seeing where the ladies lunch ... and catfight. Plus, New York is the cast that boasts a woman who took off her fake leg and threw it across the table during an argument. You gotta love that.

    Tim Sniffen: Beverly Hills, hands down. I grew up in New York, so that world is otherworldly and fascinating to me. It’s also the first cast I ever watched, and a man never forgets his first Real Housewives. The dinner party with the psychic making unflattering predictions about people is one of my favorite moments of all time.

    John Moore: How have the “Real Housewives” shows changed the pop-culture landscape?

    Kate James: The franchise has continued to evolve the reality genre. It’s fascinating to see women join the show who already have a public persona but feel like they can advance their careers or social standing by being a part of the TV cast. Instead of reality TV being comprised of “real people” who want to play pretend and be famous, you now have famous people who want to be seen as “real.”

    Tim Sniffen: I think they opened the door for the many other reality shows that followed. Along with The Real World and Jersey Shore, the Real Housewives were pioneers in taking people from everyday life - OK, slightly wealthier everyday life - letting them go and leaving the cameras on.

    John Moore: Let’s get philosophical: Is there anything real about the Real Housewives?

    Kate James: The only thing that is “real” is the women’s desire to be in the public eye - no matter what it takes to accomplish that.

    Tim Sniffen: I think the thing that keeps us coming back is we see some of ourselves in them. Yes, that very worst part of yourself that appears after three glasses of wine and  a public fight in a restaurant parking lot with your best friend. But we love to roll our eyes at these ladies while quietly thinking, “Thank God I’m not that bad ... ”

    John Moore: What is with our fascination with seeing people make fools of themselves on TV?

    Kate James: The schadenfreude factor for Real Housewives fans is very high. That’s the pleasure you derive from another person's misfortune. I know I enjoy watching the show because there is a big part of me that says, “Well at least my life isn’t as crazy as that!”

    Tim Sniffen: I think so many magazine layouts and Facebook posts present such perfect, polished facades of people that it wears you down. It’s gratifying to see people at their unapologetic, train-wreck worst.

    John Moore: And now you are coming to Denver with your parody homage. Will we recognize any “real Denverites” in any of the characters you have created for us?

    Kate James: No, all of our characters are mash-ups of all the best and worst qualities of the actual Housewives. We are celebrating the quirks and personality types of the women who are featured on the TV show. Our characters are kind of a beautiful homage, a love letter, to all of them.

    Tim Sniffen: There’s still lots of room in the show for local personalities. But I’d rather people go into the theater without any spoilers. The same way I appreciated not knowing Han Solo was going to bite it. Oops!

    John Moore: So what kind of a night out are audiences in for when they see “The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek”?

    Kate James: This show is a fast-paced, lighthearted night with lots of laughs. Our goal is to bring everything we love - and love to hate - about the TV franchise to life so that you and your friends enjoy a drink - or three - and have a fun night out.

    Tim Sniffen: When we began writing this show, Kate was a Housewives aficionado, and I was a Housewives virgin. I think that mix created a show where you can love the Real Housewives world, or barely know it, and still have a great time. Our goal was to create the theatrical equivalent of a glass of champagne … that’s been thrown in your face after one too many catty comments about someone’s latest Botox injection.

    The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek
    May 3-22
    Garner-Galleria Theatre
    Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Tickets start at $29303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • 'Murder For Two': Killer take on 'The 12 Days of Christmas'

    by John Moore | Dec 22, 2015


    In the video above, Noel Carey and Jeremiah Ginn from Murder For Two (playing through Feb. 21 at the Garner Galleria Theatre), perform a killer version of the Christmas classic 'The 12 Days of Christmas.' One hint: There is a potful of poisonous tea.

    Murder For Two, direct from its smash Off-Broadway run in New York, is a hilarious, 90-minute murder mystery musical comedy with a twist: one actor investigates the crime, the other plays all of the suspects and they both play the piano! The New York Times calls it “ingenious. A snazzy double-act!” and Entertainment Weekly describes it as “a charmingly frenetic, all-stops out musical comedy!” Murder For Two is the winner of the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical and a Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Award nominee.

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    Murder for Two: Ticket information

  • 'Murder for Two.' Photo by Joan MarcusPerformances through Feb. 21
  • Garner Galleria Theatre
  • 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.org.
  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Murder for Two:
    Official show page
    Video: John Wascavage performs a one-man 'One Day More'

    Murder for Two. Noel Carey and Jeremiah Ginn from Murder For Two.

  • Colorado's Annaleigh Ashford and Beth Malone both nominated for Tony Awards

    by John Moore | Apr 28, 2015

    Annaleigh Ashford and Beth Malone
    Tony Award nominees Annaleigh Ashford ("You Can't Take it With You") and Beth Malone (Fun Home").


    Both Wheat Ridge High grad Annaleigh Ashford (You Can't Take it With You)  and Castle Rock native Beth Malone (Fun Home) were nominated this morning for Tony Awards.

    Beth MaloneASHFORD_ AnnaleighMalone, who opened the DCPA Theatre Company season starring in a refreshed version of the classic Broadway musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown, was nominated for best leading actress in a musical for Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel's coming-of-age graphic novel about her closeted and suicidal dad. Alison is portrayed by three actors at different times in her life. Malone plays the middle-aged Alison.

    Wrote The New York Times: "Ms. Malone expertly turns seeming self-effacement into penetrating presence."

    WATCH THE TONY AWARDS NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCEMENT HERE


    Malone was nominated alongside Kristin Chenoweth, Kelli O’Hara, Chita Rivera and Leanne Cope. She was so convinced she had no chance of being nominated, she slept through the televised morning announcement made by none other than Bruce Willis. "I just wanted to wake up and have it be done because I didn't want it to hurt," she said. "But oh my God, it's so nice to be wrong."

    Beth MaloneWhen wife Rochelle Schoppert's cell phone started pinging, she turned to Malone and said, "Congratulations, Tony nominee."

    "It was like a sensation of both relief and joy washed over me while I just lay there spooning my dog," said Malone. "And then we went to the dog park and picked up poop."

    Malone credited her experience with Molly Brown in Denver as a significant factor in her Fun Home success.

    "I have to say that doing Molly Brown and have it be a success on the level that it was really helped me walk back into the Fun Home rehearsal knowing that I could lead a cast," said Malone. "Molly Brown and that whole experience at the Denver Center bolstered my confidence in my bones."



    Photos from Beth Malone's time in Denver starring in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Photo by John Moore.


    Ashford was here in Denver just two weeks ago performing two sold-out evenings of her acclaimed cabaret show, Annaleigh Ashford: Lost in the Stars.  She has been nominated as best featured actress in a play for You Can't Take it With You opposite James Earl Jones.  She was previously nominated for best featured actress in a musical for Kinky Boots.

    "I’m so honored to have been nominated among such an extraordinary group of women," Ashford told the DCPA NewsCenter. "But I’m even more grateful to have been a part of the amazing ensemble cast of You Can't Take it With You. It was one of the highlights of my life, and this is just extraordinarily amazing."

    You Can't Take it With You is the 1938 Pulitzer-winning play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart about a good-natured and decidedly eccentric family that lives life according to their whims rather than societal convention.

    The New York Times called Ashford "a sly comic genius" in its review. Ashford played Essie, who goes through life in toe shoes and on point. "Priceless moments as offered up by Ms. Ashford as Essie makes like Pavlova in every conceivable context," wrote Ben Brantley. "Just wait for the position she assumes by Mrs. Kirby’s chair in the big dinner scene."

    Both Malone and Ashford grew up on Colorado stages and have the former Country Dinner Playhouse in common. Ashford  made her stage debut at age 10 in Theatre Group's Ruthless! The Musical! Malone played the narrator in the Arvada Center's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and has other credits spanning BDT Stage to Theatre Aspen.

    Read our featured interview with Annaleigh Ashford

    Read our featured interview with Beth Malone




    Photos from Annaleigh Ashford's visit last month to Denver. Photo by John Moore.


    The musicals "An American in Paris" and "Fun Home" each received a leading 12 Tony Award nominations, showing two very different sides of this Broadway season.

    One side is sunny — the dance-heavy stage adaptation of the 1951 musical film choreographed by Gene Kelly — and the other dark.

    Michael Cerveris got one of the dozen nods for "Fun Home" — as best leading actor in a musical — and hopes that will attract more people to see his poignant show that might not initially be a lure for tourists.

    "The real value of the Tonys — and I suppose any awards — is to draw attention to something that people otherwise might not seek out. So the fact that every aspect of the production has been acknowledged is the best kind of advertising," he told The Associated Press.

    The nominations also ranged from 11-year-old Sydney Lucas in "Fun Home" to the 82-year-old Chita Rivera, looking for her third Tony. Helen Mirren and Bradley Cooper each got nominations but Matthew Morrison from "Glee" did not get a nod in his return to Broadway.

    The best new play category will include the candidates "Wolf Hall, Parts One & Two," ''Hand to God," ''Disgraced" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." Larry David's "Fish in the Dark" was snubbed entirely.

    In addition to "An American in Paris" and "Fun Home," the best new musical category includes "Something Rotten!" and "The Visit." The Peter Pan-themed "Finding Neverland," marking Harvey Weinstein first-ever venture into Broadway as a lead producer, didn't get a single nomination.

    ​The category of best revival includes the Rodgers and Hammerstein gem The King and I, the Leonard Bernstein/Betty Comden/Adolph Green classic On The Town and the Cy Coleman/Comden/Green romp On the Twentieth Century.

    The British did well, with transfers "Wolf Hall Parts One & Two," ''The Audience", "The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time" and "Skylight" grabbing 24 nominations. Sting's "The Last Ship" earned the rocker a nomination for best original score.

    The best actress in a musical category includes Kristin Chenoweth for "On the Twentieth Century," Kelli O'Hara for "The King and I," Chita Rivera for "The Visit," Leanne Cope from "An American in Paris" and Beth Malone from "Fun Home."

    The best actor in a musical nominees are Brian d'Arcy James for "Something Rotten!", Michael Cerveris in "Fun Home," Ken Watanabe in "The King and I," Tony Yazbeck in "On the Town" and Robert Fairchild in "An American in Paris."

    The best actor in a play nominees include Bradley Cooper for "The Elephant Man," Ben Miles for "Wolf Hall, Parts One & Two," Alex Sharp in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," Steven Boyer in "Hand to God," and Bill Nighy for "Skylight."

    The five best actresses in a play nominees are: Carey Mulligan in "Skylight," Helen Mirren in "The Audience," Ruth Wilson in "Constellations," Geneva Carr in "Hand to God" and Elisabeth Moss in "The Heidi Chronicles."

    Mirren earned her nod for playing Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience" imagines the private weekly meetings between the monarch and eight of Britain's prime ministers over her six-decade reign. Mirren already has an Oscar for playing the same sovereign in the film "The Queen" and was a hit in the play in London.

    "I've studied the shape of her mouth. I know her face probably better than anyone else does. But it's only my portrait," she said. "I can only surmise and imagine.

    DCPA NewsCenter viewers were able to watch the 2015 Tony Awards nominations announcement live in a special webcast hosted by Mary-Louise Parker and Bruce Willis. Parker is a former Tony winner (Proof) and three-time nominee. Willis is set to make his Broadway debut this fall in the upcoming play Misery, a new stage adaptation of the Stephen King novel.

    Check back here throughout the morning as we update this page with inside info, trivia, quotes and more.

    The Tony Awards will be presented on June 7 on CBS. On the Twentieth Century headliner Kristin Chenoweth and recent Cabaret star Alan Cumming will host the 69th annual ceremony live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

    Wire reports contributed to this report.



    COMPLETE LIST OF NOMINEES


    Best Play
    Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar
    Hand to God by Robert Askins
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens
    Wolf Hall Parts One & Two by Hilary Mantel and Mike Poulton

    Best Musical
    An American in Paris
    Fun Home
    Something Rotten!
    The Visit

    Best Revival of a Play
    Skylight
    The Elephant Man
    This Is Our Youth
    You Can’t Take It With You

    Best Revival of a Musical
    On the Town
    On the Twentieth Century
    The King and I

    Best Book of a Musical
    Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, Something Rotten!
    Lisa Kron, Fun Home
    Craig Lucas, An American in Paris
    Terrence McNally, The Visit

    Best Score
    John Kander and Fred Ebb, The Visit
    Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten!
    Sting, The Last Ship
    Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, Fun Home

    Best Leading Actor in a Play
    Steven Boyer, Hand to God
    Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
    Ben Miles, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
    Bill Nighy, Skylight
    Alex Sharp, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

    Best Leading Actress in a Play
    Geneva Carr, Hand to God
    Helen Mirren, The Audience
    Elisabeth Moss, The Heidi Chronicles
    Carey Mulligan, Skylight
    Ruth Wilson, Constellations

    Best Leading Actor in a Musical
    Michael Cerveris, Fun Home
    Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris
    Brian d’Arcy James, Something Rotten!
    Ken Watanabe, The King and I
    Tony Yazbeck, On the Town

    Beth_Malone_Molly_Brown_Broncos_3Best Leading Actress in a Musical
    Kristin Chenoweth, On the Twentieth Century
    Leanne Cope, An American in Paris
    Beth Malone, Fun Home
    Kelli O’Hara, The King and I
    Chita Rivera, The Visit

    Best Featured Actor in a Play
    Matthew Beard, Skylight
    K. Todd Freeman, Airline Highway
    Richard McCabe, The Audience
    Alessandro Nivola, The Elephant Man
    Nathaniel Parker, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
    Micah Stock, It’s Only a Play

    Annaleigh Ashford and Molly Nash. Ashford once perfdormed a benefit concert to defray Nash's medical expenses. Photo by John Moore. Best Featured Actress in a Play
    Annaleigh Ashford, You Can’t Take It With You
    Patricia Clarkson, The Elephant Man
    Lydia Leonard, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
    Sarah Stiles, Hand to God
    Julie White, Airline Highway

    Best Featured Actor in a Musical
    Christian Borle, Something Rotten!
    Andy Karl, On the Twentieth Century
    Brad Oscar, Something Rotten!
    Brandon Uranowitz, An American in Paris
    Max von Essen, An American in Paris

    Best Featured Actress in a Musical
    Victoria Clark, Gigi
    Judy Kuhn, Fun Home
    Sydney Lucas, Fun Home
    Ruthie Ann Miles, The King and I
    Emily Skeggs, Fun Home

    Best Scenic Design of a Play
    Bunny Christie & Finn Ross, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    Bob Crowley, Skylight
    Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
    David Rockwell, You Can’t Take It With You

    Best Scenic Design of a Musical
    Bob Crowley and 59 Productions, An American in Paris
    David Rockwell, On the Twentieth Century
    Michael Yeargan, The King and I
    David Zinn, Fun Home

    Best Costume Design of a Play
    Bob Crowley, The Audience
    Jane Greenwood, You Can’t Take It With You
    Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
    David Zinn, Airline Highway

    Best Costume Design of a Musical
    Gregg Barnes, Something Rotten!
    Bob Crowley, An American in Paris
    William Ivey Long, On the Twentieth Century
    Catherine Zuber, The King and I

    Best Lighting Design of a Play
    Paule Constable, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    Paule Constable and David Plater, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
    Natasha Katz, Skylight
    Japhy Weideman, Airline Highway

    Best Lighting Design of a Musical
    Donald Holder, The King and I
    Natasha Katz, An American in Paris
    Ben Stanton, Fun Home
    Japhy Weideman, The Visit

    Best Director of a Play
    Stephen Daldry, Skylight
    Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    Scott Ellis, You Can’t Take It With You
    Jeremy Herrin, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
    Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Hand to God

    Best Director of a Musical
    Sam Gold, Fun Home
    Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
    John Rando, On the Town
    Bartlett Sher, The King and I
    Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

    Best Choreography
    Joshua Bergasse, On the Town
    Christopher Gattelli, The King and I
    Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
    Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

    Best Orchestrations
    Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky and Bill Elliott, An American in Paris
    John Clancy, Fun Home
    Larry Hochman, Something Rotten!
    Rob Mathes, The Last Ship

    Tony Nominations by Production
    An American in Paris - 12
    Fun Home - 12
    Something Rotten! - 10
    The King and I - 9
    Wolf Hall Parts One & Two - 8
    Skylight - 7
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - 6
    Hand to God - 5
    On the Twentieth Century - 5
    The Visit - 5
    You Can’t Take It with You - 5
    Airline Highway - 4
    The Elephant Man - 4
    On the Town - 4
    The Audience - 3
    The Last Ship - 2
    Constellations - 1
    Disgraced - 1
    Gigi - 1
    The Heidi Chronicles - 1
    It’s Only a Play - 1
    This Is Our Youth - 1



    TRIVIA
    Gold Derby is predicting that Fun Home, starring Beth Malone, will not only be nominated for Best Musical, but will win.

    Donald Holder, who designed the lights for The Unsinkable Molly Brown in Denver, was nominated for an 11th time for The King and I.

    CBS has broadcast the Tony every year since 1978.

    Tony nominees Beth Malone, above, and Donald Holder, below, when they were here in Denver for The Unsinkable Molly Brown."

  • Photos: Annaleigh Ashford's smashing return to Denver

    by John Moore | Apr 12, 2015

    Our photo gallery covering Annaleigh Ashford's return to Denver. All photos are available for free downloading, in a variety of sizes.
    Just click here.


    Tony Award-nominated Broadway star Annaleigh Ashford returned home Saturday for the first of two special cabaret performances at the Garner Galleria Theatre.

    Annaleigh Ashford and Molly Nash. Ashford once perfdormed a benefit concert to defray Nash's medical expenses. Photo by John Moore. Lost in the Stars was an evening of songs and stories that she will perform again at 5 p.m. tonight (Sunday, April 12). Ashford revisited the disco of Donna Summer, Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall, and even emceed an Alanis Morissette singalong. She also performed a medley from her Broadway and off-Broadway shows. It was all woven together by Ashford's heartfelt stories, many of which covered the Wheat Ridge High School alum's days growing up in Denver.

    Saturday's performance brought dozens of friends and influences from Ashford's days growing up in Denver. There was a meet-and-greet after the show, and we were there for pictures. (There is not a similar reception after tonight's show because Ashford has a plane to catch.) Photos by John Moore.

    Pictured above right: Annaleigh Ashford and Molly Nash. Ashford once performed a benefit concert to help defray Nash's medical expenses.


    READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ANNALEIGH ASHFORD HERE


    Steven Tangedal played Annaleigh Ashford's grandmother in 'Ruthless the Musical' when Ashford was 10 years old. Photo by John Moore.

    Steven Tangedal played Annaleigh Ashford's grandmother in "Ruthless the Musical" when Ashford was 10 years old. Photo by John Moore.


    Annaleigh Ashford's family after the Saturday night performance. Photo by John Moore.
    Annaleigh Ashford's family after the Saturday night performance. Photo by John Moore.


    Annaleigh Ashford
    – Lost in the Stars: Ticket information

    • 5 p.m. Sunday, April 12
    • Single tickets start at $50
    • To charge by phone, call 303-893-4100
    • buy online
    Please be advised that The Denver Center for the Performing Arts – including  DenverCenter.Org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of “Annaleigh Ashford – Lost in the Stars”




    Our previous NewsCenter coverage of Annaleigh Ashford:


    Video: Follow Annaleigh Ashford's day in Denver promoting "Lost in the Stars," including co-hosting "Colorado's Everyday Show" with Kathie J, and a stop at the DCPA's Page to Stage monthly conversation at the Tattered Cover Book Store. Video by John Moore and David Lenk.

    Our exclusive interview with Annaleigh Ashford

    Our backstage interview backstage at Kinky Boots including Andy Kelso
    Video: Watch Annaleigh perform at last week's Miscast in New York


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    ABOUT THE EDITOR
    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

    DCPA is the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. We think of theatre as a spark of life — a special occasion that’s exciting, powerful and fun. Join us today and we promise an experience you won't soon forget.