• John Ahlin of 'Native Gardens' on what theatre can learn from Comic-Con

    by John Moore | Apr 20, 2018
    mariana-fernandez-john-ahlin-ryan-garbayo-photo-by-adamsviscom_26525867837_o
    Photo by Adams VisCom.

    Broadway veteran's garden grew out of a dream to be a forest ranger. Now he's tilling the soil in the Space Theatre.  

    MEET JOHN AHLIN
    John-Ahlin-Jefferson-Mays-in-the-2007-Broadway-revival-of-Journeys-End-at-the-Belasco-Theatre.-Photo-by-Paul-Kolnik.John Ahlin, who plays gardening fan Frank Butley in Native Gardens, has appeared on Broadway in seven productions including Waiting for Godot with Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin, 2007 Tony Award-winning Best Revival Journey’s End (alongside DCPA master's graduate John Behlmann), The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Macbeth, and others. Other New York credits include Orson Welles in Orson’s Shadow (Barrow Street Theatre), Gray Area (Barrow Group), ChipandGus (Soho Playhouse) and others. TV and film credits include: “Inside Llewyn Davis” (Coen Brothers), “Law & Order: SVU,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “As the World Turns” and many more. (Pictured above: John Ahlin and Jefferson Mays in Journey's End.' Photo by Paul Kolnik.)

    • Hometown: Aurora
    • Home now: New York
    • Training: BFA from Syracuse University Go Orange
    • Website: JohnAhlin.com
    • Twitter-sized bio: Actor, playwright, thinker: Lives 36 floors above New York City: Works hard: Plays nice: Likes all people and distant train whistles
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? Out of high school, I wanted to be a forest ranger, and I was sidetracked by theatre in college and never looked back. I still have the “what if” pangs whenever I look up at forested mountains, and as I type this I can look out to see some snowy Rockies. There is where I’d most likely be if not for acting.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Not a prideful fellow I, but I feel I’m able to perform myriad roles somewhat effectively, and am not pigeonholed into a type. For example, I’ve appeared on Broadway in a splashy musical, a whodunit, a contemporary Irish black comedy, an all-black musical revue, a Shakespeare, an absurdist classic and a Tony Award-winning revival of a World War I drama. I did, however, once get mis-booked on a radio show where I thought I was going to promote a play I had written, and they instead thought I was a bright young comedian. Luckily I was quick-witted enough to survive that interview, but I wouldn’t want to do that again.
    • John+Ahlin+as+FalstaffBucket-list role: If I were forced to list my all-time bucket-list role, it would be Lear. A small portion of the rest of the list: Willie Loman, Big Daddy, Sheridan Whiteside, Walter Burns, Estragon and Mama Rose. (Note: I included Mama Rose because, in theory, after you complete your bucket list, don’t you kick the bucket? If I have one un-played role on my list, I hope to stave off the inevitable end.)
    • What's playing on your Spotify? "Levon" by Elton John, "Everybody’s Talkin’ " by Harry Nilsson, "Elusive Butterfly of Love" by Bob Lind, "Gentle on My Mind" by Glen Campbell and "And When I Die" by Blood, Sweat and Tears — my favorite band. I would call these my top-five favorite songs, and it wasn’t until this little exercise that I realized what was alike about them all: Scope. The expansive reflection on one’s life, both past and future and its echoing through time.
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I have done Falstaff 11 times — and I’d be happy to do him 11 more times. (Pictured above right.)
    • 200 Mark Rylance. jerusalem. (Photo by Simon Annand)One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: Watching Mark Rylance in Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth was the happy confluence of seeing both the greatest performance and the greatest play I had ever witnessed, at the same time. And to see such a marvel, after my nearly four decades in show business, was more than an inspiring glimpse of what theatre can be. It was a rejuvenating experience, fueling me to go on, to keep wondering, and seeking the surprises that lurk around every corner of life. (Pictured at right: Mark Rylance in 'Jerusalem.' Photo by Simon Annand.)
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? This is a bit wacky, but I think everyone who makes or markets theatre should go to a Comic-Con and see the enthusiasm of the crowds of young people lining up around the outside of the convention center, and then just ponder what it is that drives these joyous fans to surrender themselves completely to the stories, characters and ambience. There are probably many revelations that can come just by thinking and wondering how to nurture, increase, reciprocate and reward fandom for theatre — and not just the young, but all theatregoers.
    • What is Native Gardens all about? Karen Zacarías' play is about a young Latino couple who move into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though their neighbors have the best intentions, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be.
    • Why does Native Gardens matter? Native Gardens is what all good theatre should be: the lifting out of ideas and concepts intrinsic to life, to be examined in a focused and palatable way. The themes, characters, plot and style blend beautifully so that the play makes its points through behavior and not comment. This play wonderfully fulfills theatre’s purpose, where we humans gather in one big room and debate life through our stories.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Native Gardens? Someone once said “the audience is the only genius in theatre,” so what they get out of it is all that really matters. I have a feeling they will get a wonderful and funny night of theatre, but more, they will see a play that shakes preconceived notions and will cause the audience to look at something afresh, as if for the first time. And hint at avenues of hope.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I think too many people are getting things off their chests. I’m far more interested in common ground and common pursuits.  There are an awful lot of good things to be done without all the complaints and recriminations dividing people.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 


    Native Gardens
    : Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
  • Video: A tree grows ... and grows ... in 'Native Gardens'

    by John Moore | Apr 19, 2018

    Video: DCPA Theatre Company Charge Scenic Artist Jana Mitchell talks about the creative challenges that came with building a massive 30-foot indoor tree. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    How the DCPA's team of scenic artists built a 30-foot indoor tree for a play in the round without blocking audience views

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The set for the DCPA Theatre Company’s new comedy Native Gardens is dominated by a large and meaningful oak tree that grows tall and encompasses the entire space above and below the stage.

    But the Space Theatre is in-the-round, which means the indoor tree posed a significant creative challenge for Scenic Designer Lisa M. Orzolek and her team of artists for this first-ever staging of Karen Zacarías' celebrated comedy in a theatre where the audience is seated in a circle all around the stage.

    The play centers on two neighboring couples at odds over the location of their property line — and the presence of a massive backyard oak tree that one couple loves but aggravates the other when it drops its leaves, acorns and branches on the other side of the fence.

    How did she pull it off? “That's the magic of theatre," Orzolek teased.

    Jana Mitchell On the page, it would seem that the tree should be located between the two houses, just on one side of the property line closest to the fence. But that would be the middle of the Space Theatre, and you can't put a big tree in the middle of a round stage because of the sightline problems that would create for audiences. So Orzolek put the tree in one of the theatre’s five “voms” (or actor entranceways). And then built it to such a massive size that its branches still create all kinds of havoc for the neighboring couple.

    “In order for the tree to reach all the way across the theatre into the neighbor’s yard, it just kept getting taller and longer and wider,” Orzolek said. "It goes up and then comes back down. In the end, it was 24 feet tall and 30 feet wide.”

    The tree began as a tiny clay model. Then came wood, steel, chicken wire and muslin. “The bark structure is actually carpet padding,” Orzolek said. “Our amazing scenic-artist team just ripped carpet padding into strips to make bark and then they spray-painted it with drywall texture." It's a technique former DCPA Scenic Artist Brian Proud invented for The Secret Graden. 

    The tree plays a major part in the story, and not just because it represents a physical point of contention. It reveals differences in the way the two couples look at the world.

    “The oak tree is very important in any native garden,” Zacarías said. “They have the most biodiversity of any tree species.”

    And that's relevant to one of the couples, and hogwash to the other.

    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.

    Making of 'Native Gardens'Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Native Gardens: Ticket information
    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 'Tommy': How The Who went from smashing guitars to blowing people's minds

    by John Moore | Apr 16, 2018
    Sam Buntrock. Photo by John Moore
    Performances of the DCPA Theatre Company's staging of 'The Who's Tommy' begin Saturday. Photo of Director Sam Buntrock by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Director Sam Buntrock says 50 years on, Tommy's true wizardry remains its emotionally authentic storytelling

    By Sylvie Drake
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Remember The Who’s Tommy? Remember when it played Denver’s Buell Theatre in 1994? Maybe you were too young.

    The show was very young then too, known mostly by hearsay or from the 1969 rock concept album on which it is based. It had made waves by elevating the life of a deaf, mute and blind boy whose prodigious talent at pinball makes him a celebrity. By applying what was then a lot of new technology to his fertile imagination, director Des McAnuff’s 1992 transfer of that iconic album to the La Jolla Playhouse stage in San Diego took musical theatre to a whole new level of innovation.

    At the time, The Who was a British rock group seeking broader recognition, so the album’s breakthrough in London — and the rock opera created in La Jolla — became sensations. Rock operas were still uncommon. There had been Hair (1968) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), both huge, to say nothing of The Rocky Horror Show that exploded on several London stages in 1973 before spreading across the globe with its enduring popularity.

    Rommy Sam Buntrock Andy Mientus. Photo by John MooreTommy was different. Its La Jolla opening with its flashy tech effects, its combination of heartbreaking story and unrestrained flamboyance, was a big surprise. The tools were the same, but watching the astonishing fall and rise of a traumatized child on stage offered a deeper and deeply thrilling experience. The subsequent 1993 Broadway run set box-office records, and the show traveled to Denver the following year on the wings of great press and five Tony Awards.

    (Pictured: Sam Buntrock with Andy Mientus (Tommy) on the first day of rehearsal in Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Today’s DCPA Theatre Company revival is a homegrown incarnation, with a live band and reinvented staging by director Sam Buntrock, whose Frankenstein at the DCPA and whose West End direction of Sunday In the Park With George scored high marks.

    “I’ve never directed Tommy before,” he said by email earlier this spring. “In the ’60s, Townsend wrote the score to be performed in concert. In the ’90s he worked with Des McAnuff to transform it into a big and brilliant stage musical. I suspect mine will be a more emotionally driven, intimate version of the show. I’m approaching that version through the lens of contemporary theatrical conventions.

    “Audiences have become accustomed to simpler, more distilled storytelling, the sort whose thrills are precise and unexpected. With Tommy, I’m excited to stage a fantastical show that has, at its heart, a rich and emotionally authentic story.”

    Video: Andy Mientus, Lulu Fall sing for Denver Actors Fund

    Among the new ideas Buntrock brings to his staging is younger casting, including that of Andy Mientus (of TV’s “Smash” and Deaf West Theatre’s Spring Awakening) as Tommy.

    “Of course, there are children written into the fabric of the show — 4-year-old and 10-year-old Tommy,” Buntrock said. “These two are givens, though our 4-year-old may play a larger part than people expect.

    Sam Buntock Tommy“The only other child is a teenaged Kevin. The story spans some 20 years, and Kevin is one of the characters who features through most of the timeline. So if he interacts with 10-year-old Tommy, and then adult Tommy, it’s powerful to see him grow up too. How that doubling works and what the payoff is, are both things conceived in service of creating a credible family on stage.” 

    (Right: 'Tommy' artwork by DCPA Theatre Company Director Sam Buntrock.)

    Pete Townshend, The Who’s lead guitarist, composed most of the score for Tommy. He told Applause magazine in 1994 “that story is, in a sense, my life brought up-to-date. I didn’t quite realize how autobiographical it was. Not just of me, but of the people around me at the time … everybody in the group. Not only was it an important step for us artistically, it also was the critical financial breakthrough for a group that, up to that point, had been known for wearing funny clothes and pop-art outfits and smashing guitars.”   

    Almost 50 years on, the Tommy story, and especially its score, still resonate.

    Four-year-old Tommy is thrown into a catatonic state after he witnesses a traumatic family event reflected in a mirror. It makes him instantly deaf, dumb and blind. This triple whammy brings him the wrong kinds of attention; he struggles through childhood, badgered and abused — until he discovers he has a freakish talent for winning at pinball. 

    In late adolescence, when he’s accidentally present as his mother, in a moment of despair, smashes the same mirror that caused his catatonia, Tommy is magically healed. The revitalized pinball wizard becomes an international star before evolving into a sentient, responsive and compassionate human being. All this melodrama, married to its stunning musical score, results in a rock opera whose alchemy is practically addictive.

    When asked if he agrees that what continues to make the show so gripping
    is this melding of music, magic, mystery, mysticism and melodrama,
    Buntrock demurred.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Yes. In part. It remains so gripping because it is one of the greatest musical scores ever written,” he said. “It’s not faux musical theatre rock and roll, it’s … rock and roll. All those ‘m’s are intrinsic to what Townshend was exploring when he wrote it.

    “Ultimately,” he added, “it’s a deeply honest exploration of Townshend’s own childhood. With Tommy, with his prone passivity, we have a hero we can all project ourselves upon. Yes, it’s magnified and melodramatic, but it’s rock and roll, so what do you expect? And despite this, I think it has something profound to say about our relationship to our childhood selves.”

    Theatre, being a primary champion of human understanding, often takes the lead in reversing secretive old-fashioned attitudes. Tommy is an example of art shining a light into the darkness and, in former theatre critic Frank Rich’s words, “spreading catharsis like wildfire through the cheering house.

    Sylvie Drake is a former theatre critic and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a translator, a contributor to culturalweekly.com and American Theatre magazine, and a former Director of Media Relations and Publications for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

    Tommy cast Photo by John MooreThe cast of 'The Who's Tommy' at its first rehearsal in Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The Who's Tommy
    at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances April 21-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
  • Backyard border dispute: How does your garden grumble?

    by John Moore | Apr 14, 2018

    Your first video look at the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of 'Native Gardens." Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

     

    Good fences make for good neighbors in new comedy about couples who draw a property line in the sand


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    These days, sure, we can choose our own families. But unless you live in a commune, you don’t really get to pick your own neighbors. And America’s great, ongoing ideological divide could not be expressed more definitively — or apparently, more comically — than in a play about a property line dispute between neighbors.

    KAREN ZACARIAS. Photo by John MooreThat’s the thorn in the rose of Karen Zacarías’ popular comedy Native Gardens. On one side of the fence, we have a pregnant Latinx couple who are new to town. On the other we have empty-nesters who think “Latinx” must surely be a misspelled word. (It's not.) Trouble blooms when the younger couple discovers their property line actually extends right over their next- door-Boomers’ pristine flowerbed.

    “It’s a deceptively simple play,” Chicago-based Director Lisa Portes said. “At first you might think you are watching this charming and disarming little play about neighbors and gardens. But the minute there is a dispute over 2 feet of land — all hell breaks loose.”

    Zacarías, a native of Mexico who penned previous DCPA Theatre Company stagings of Mariela in the Desert and Just Like Us, got the idea for her play at a dinner party where the guests all traded horror stories about their neighbors. Everyone, it seems, has one.

    “All of these stories, I found, were both upsetting and funny,” Zacarías said. “And what I discovered in listening to them is that we seem to have this primal attachment to land that is both poetic and absurd at the same time. And then I realized that almost every single fight that’s going on anywhere in the world can be distilled down to one of these two things: border disputes and cultural differences.”

    mariana-fernndez-john-ahlin-ryan-garbayo-photo-by-adamsviscom_26525867837_oWhat comes out on stage, Portes said, is an accessible comedy that explores weedy issues we don’t dare talk about in our own living rooms but maybe we can laugh at in the communal anonymity of a theatre.

    At a time when the nation is polarized by talk of borders and walls, Zacarías found a way to use gardening as what she calls “a really fun metaphor to talk about really much harder issues like class and race and ageism .”

    (Pictured above and right: Mariana Fernandez and John Ahlin in 'Native Gardens.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    Even the title asks a prickly little question, Portes said: “What is native? Who is native? What does that word even mean? It’s not as black and white as we think.”

    The inaugural staging of Native Gardens accomplished something quite rare when the play was praised by a local reviewer both for having “a finger pressed to the pulse of the American mood” and for “its ability to make you forget the current political and social climate.” At the same time.

    That’s probably because Native Gardens, Zacarías said, puts no one on the defensive. “It’s sneaky that way,” she said. “I wrote all four main characters from a place of love. There’s a simplicity to the set-up, and that’s on purpose. It allows the play to sow some seeds and grow some deeper roots. And the audience is willing to go there together because really nobody comes up smelling like a rose.”

    LISA PORTES QUOTE. Photo by John Moore. Native Gardens premiered in 2016, before the ascendency of Donald Trump. But while debate over immigration has raged for as long as America, there is no question it now tops a list of issues Zacarías says “are bubbling to the surface in a vicious manner.”

    Zacarías experienced something similar in 2014, when she adapted Denver journalist Helen Thorpe’s book Just Like Us for its Denver Center world premiere. That true story followed four Denver Latinas through high school, and told how their struggles and opportunities diverged based on their citizenship status.

    “I was hoping Just Like Us would become less relevant over time, but unfortunately it’s only become more relevant,” Zacarías said, referring to the ongoing battle over the immigration policy known as DACA. And with the rise of Trump, she said, the same has proven true of Native Gardens. Only this play is much funnier.

    Zacarías and Portes were among the so-called “DC-8” who started a national movement called The Latinx Theatre Commons in 2012 to amplify the visibility of Latinx theatre in the United States. Since then, Portes has directed the world premiere of Antoinette Nwandu’s Breach, a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate in Chicago, as well as an all-Latinx version of The Glass Menagerie for Cal Shakes in northern California.

    Read more: Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    Zacarías, now the most produced Latinx playwright in America, last month launched a high-profile production for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival called Destiny of Desire, a subversive homage to telenovelas, which she calls “one of the most exploitative forms of entertainment in the world.”

    Native Gardens has already had several productions around the country, but the Denver Center’s will be the first to be staged in the round configuration,” which Portes said “almost makes this like a world premiere because that will create an entirely different actor-audience relationship. The audience will be its own kind of community circling this other community of actors, and we’re all sitting together in this real garden with real plants and flowers.”

    Zacarías said the Denver Center staging also will be a first because it will introduce small, first-time improvements to the script. “I do think this will be a whole different take on the play,” she said.

    “Native Gardens is a story that asks what it takes to be a good neighbor. It is about four specific, flawed people — but it’s not really about them. It’s about us. And how all of us can be better neighbors.”

    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.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Native Gardens: Production photos

    Native Gardens Photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by by Adams Viscom for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Native Gardens
    : Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    Native Gardens Opening Night. Photo by John Moore. Cast and creatives on opening night. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • New Denver Center plays take center stage in Seattle, San Diego

    by John Moore | Apr 14, 2018
    Our video report from the openings of the Denver Center-born plays 'The Great Leap' and 'American Mariachi' in Seattle and San Diego. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Theatre Company's first co-productions in a decade open for West Coast audiences on back-to-back nights 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    It was an hour before the opening performance of the Denver-born play American Mariachi at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, and something wasn't quite right. A large backstage table was filled with floating balloons, sweets and several bouquets of fresh congratulatory flowers, including one from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

    But then there was the incongruous vase on Bobby Plasencia’s dressing-room table. Its water was discolored, its flowers tired and wilting. But to the actor, they were surely the most vibrant flowers in the room.

    American Mariachi in San Diego. Photo by John Moore“They’ve been here ever since our final dress rehearsal,” said Plasencia, who plays an old-school mariachi player whose wife dies in the story. After that performance almost a week before, the actor got word that a 12-year-old boy in the audience wanted to meet him. Plasencia walked to the stage door and was greeted by “this super-cool little dude,” he said, wearing a tie and perfectly gelled hair. The boy took one look at Plasencia, fell into his arms and burst into tears. “And he just couldn’t stop,” Plasencia said.  

    One of the grown-ups in the entourage pulled Plasencia aside and whispered that the boy had recently lost someone very close to him, and that the play had moved him immensely. The boy collected himself and presented Plasencia with flowers as a gift for the entire cast. “And they are going to stay right here until our very last day here on April 29,” Plasencia promised.  

    Those kinds of powerful audience responses to José Cruz González’s family drama have been steady since the play premiered back in Denver on Feb. 2. And because of several unique partnerships the DCPA Theatre Company has forged this season, they are continuing to happen in multiple cities.

    American Mariachi is one of two world-premiere plays the Denver Center has recently launched as co-productions with other leading national theatre organizations. The other was Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap in partnership with the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Both plays tell culturally specific stories that bring underrepresented voices to the stage while also telling uncommonly universal family stories.

    Jose Cruz Gonzalez quoteA co-production, or “co-pro,” as they say in the biz, is a collaboration between two companies that have a shared investment in launching a new play, both artistically and financially. They work together on the development of the piece, share certain expenses and then present the play in both cities back-to-back, with the original casts intact.

    When both plays closed in Denver last month, all key creative personnel packed up along with the sets, props and costumes and set forth to either Seattle or San Diego for their immediate transfers. By great calendrical coincidence, both plays opened in their second cities on back-to-back nights: March 28 and 29.

    Despite the modest financial benefit that comes with partnering with other companies, large-scale co-productions are rare in the American theatre. In its nearly 40-year history, the DCPA Theatre Company has only participated in three previous co-pros — Pure Confidence with Cincinnati Playhouse in 2007; and the world premieres of The Laramie Project with the Tectonic Theatre Project in 1999-2000 and Tantalus with the Royal Shakespeare Company the following year.

    The partnerships with Seattle Rep and the Old Globe involved dozens of people but were primarily negotiated by first-year DCPA Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. The goal, she said, was simple: To make better, more finished plays — thereby giving them better chances for a continued life in the American theatre.  

    “The main reason I wanted to push for these co-productions is because I wanted to look for opportunities for the writers to continue to work on developing their plays,” Garrett said.

    Both productions shared key creative personnel from both companies, including American Mariachi director James Vásquez, who considers the Old Globe to be his artistic home; and Seattle Rep Director of New Works Kristen Leahey, who has served as Dramaturg for The Great Leap since its first draft. That almost all of the Latinx artists Vazquez has brought home with him to the Old Globe are now working there for the first time, Artistic Director Barry Edelstein said, “is a special happiness for all of us.” His Seattle counterpart, Braden Abraham, called The Great Leap "an irresistible opportunity to showcase a rising Chinese-American playwright in the Pacific Northwest," and said working with Garrett and the whole team in Denver was "a pure joy."   

    (Story continues below the photo gallery.)

    Our complete photo gallery from Seattle and San Diego:

    Denver Center in Seattle and San Diego

    Photos from the openings of 'The Great Leap' and 'American Mariachi' in Seattle and San Diego. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Both plays were begun as commissions by former DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson. A commission is when a company pays a playwright a stipend to write a new work for its right of first refusal to produce. González began writing American Mariachi in 2014, and it was first presented as a featured reading at the Denver Center’s 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Back then it was a sprawling, 150-page script. By the time of its world premiere in Denver in February, it was down to 95 pages. “So it's now very lean, and it moves like gangbusters,” said González, who continued to hone the script all the way up to opening night in San Diego on March 29.

    “Having the opportunity to have a play done in two places is a tremendous gift to a playwright,” González said. “First, to be able to premiere it in Denver and work out all the things that still needed to happen in terms of casting, storytelling and design. We left Denver feeling very satisfied, and yet that whole time we were still watching our audiences take in the play. We were learning from them and thinking about how we could improve it. And then there is the gift of that second production.”

    the-company-of-american-mariachi-photo-by-adamsviscom_39989611081_oAmerican Mariachi, set in the early 1970s, follows the journey of a young woman named Lucha who has become the caretaker for a mother with dementia. When she finds an old mariachi record that briefly brings her mother back to life, Lucha becomes determined to learn how to play the song for her with live musicians before it is too late. Although being a female mariachi player was unheard of at that time, Lucha defies her grumpy father, assembles a group of women and makes her dream come true.

    (Pictured above, from left: Amanda Robles, Jennifer Paredes, Natalie Camunas, Crissy Guerrero and Heather Velazquez. Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    American Mariachi played in the Denver Center’s largest theatre (750 seats) and exceeded box-office projections. The play is enjoying the same kind of crossover appeal in San Diego, where it is playing in a slightly more intimate, 600-seat space. None of which surprises the women in the cast.

    “This play is doing much more than filling a Latino slot on the season,” said actor Crissy Guerrero. “It has touched anyone from any background.” It is also the right time to be telling this story in the current cultural zeitgeist, said castmate Natalie Camunas. “It is important to show strong women on the stage doing what they do best right now, which is encouraging and supporting each other and shining,” she said.

    Video spotlight: Our interview with Lauren Yee

    All theatre companies, to an extent, program according to their censuses. In Denver, the Latino population is 31.8 percent, compared to 31.6 percent in San Diego. While the Denver Center has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to presenting plays with Latinx voices (most recently Native Gardens, Just Like Us, Fade and Lydia), The Great Leap, meanwhile, is only the second play by an Asian-American playwright the Denver Center has ever presented. But in Denver, the Asian-American population is just 3.4 percent, compared to 13.7 in Seattle.

    linden-tailor-photo-by-adamsviscom_39272674395_oYee’s The Great Leap, set in the late 1980s, follows a scrappy Asian-American kid who talks his way onto a college basketball team that embarks on a series of “friendship” games in a China in the throes of the post-Cultural Revolution. Yee grew up in basketball-mad San Francisco, and her story was inspired by events from her father’s real experiences. Much of the play revolves around the intersecting lives of the two coaches — the compliant Chinese and the (really) ugly American.

    "This is a play that I never would have written in quite the way I did without Denver." Yee said. "Wherever it goes, there is something embedded in its DNA what Denver is all about." Added Director Eric Ting: "What a gift to have two pre-eminent theatre companies working together to make this play happen."

    Actors Keiko Green and Linden Tailor say Seattle audiences, which are made up of many more Asian-Americans than in Denver, are reacting to the story very differently, specifically as it pertains to the American coach who spews comic racial epithets throughout.

    “In Seattle, the audiences are way tougher on the coach, absolutely,” Green said. “The race comments that he makes are definitely felt more. You can see people be slightly offended and then remember, ‘Oh yeah, this is written by a Chinese-American woman.’ ”

    That, said Tailor, “is the great thing about Lauren's writing. She wants to push the envelope and ride that fine line of making you uncomfortable and making you think. I feel like here in Seattle, we are more making them think.”

    Vásquez says the same is true of American Mariachi in San Diego. “It was a raucous comedy in Denver,” he said. “I think people are leaning in and really listening to the story a little closer here.”

    American Mariachi in San DiegoThat, to Seattle Rep’s Kristin Leahey, was the whole fun of The Great Leap. “It was a really exciting thing to be sharing this work with the Denver audience as well as the Seattle audience, and to see how it engages with each of them differently,” said Leahey.

    Making the money work

    DCPA Managing Director Charles Varin said the unusual creative arrangement of a co-pro calls for an unusual financial arrangement as well. As the instigating company, he said the Denver Center assumed the cost of producing each initial staging as it would for any other show on its season. But in the case of The Great Leap, Seattle Rep contributed about $40,000 toward the $350,000 budget and the Old Globe contributed about $75,000 of a $650,000 budget.

    Varin estimated that having a producing partner ultimately represented about a 10 percent improvement to the Denver Center’s bottom line. While that is significant, he said, it is not enough to be a motivating reason to enter into a co-pro. “This was all very much artistically motivated,” said Varin, who attended both out-of-town openings. “Having a second staging helps the playwright immensely, and I think both productions were measurably improved in their second cities.”

    Video spotlight: Our interview with José Cruz González

    A similar model of play development has been employed by the National New Play Network since 1998. That’s a group of 30 core companies that select a number of new plays each year to be fully staged by a minimum of three member companies successively. It’s called a “rolling world premiere,” and the script isn’t sealed and published until after the third staging. The major difference from a co-pro is that the chosen playwright works with completely different casts and creative teams in all three cities.

    LAUREN YEE QUOTESo what happens now?

    The extended initial birth journeys for both plays end soon — The Great Leap closes April 22 and American Mariachi on April 29. But both already have their immediate futures laid out for them: The Great Leap will be staged off-Broadway this June at The Atlantic Theatre starring Tony Award-winner BD Wong. It also will be staged by the prestigious Guthrie Theatre next January in Minneapolis. American Mariachi will be presented by the Arizona Theatre Company next March.

    American Mariachi resonates in myriad ways with the kaleidoscope of our community,” said Arizona Theatre Company Artistic Director David Ivers, a former longtime DCPA Theatre Company actor. “The writing, the gift of mariachi music, the celebration and empowerment of women, and the struggle of loss in the face of hope are powerful and meaningful messages to explore in the communities we have the honor of serving.”

    This all comes in a year when Denver Center-born works are proliferating on national stages like never before. Last year, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride became the Denver Center’s most-produced new Denver Center work since Quilters in 1982. Not only is it getting its own upcoming staging at The Guthrie, it is also being made into a film starring Jim Parsons. Last week, Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will won the American Theatre Critics Association’s Steinberg Award as the best new play of the year produced outside of New York. It opens this summer on one of the nation’s largest stages, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 

    Read more: Denver Center's new place on national stage

    “I think all of that continues to advance the idea that the Denver Center is at the forefront of new-play development,” said Garrett. “As we are moving through the 21st century, one thing I lament about how we develop plays is that we all seem to be looking only for opportunities for playwrights to write something that is going to be a hit right now. There is a need for immediate success, as opposed to providing a space for something to unfold and be given life over time.”

    The benefit for actors  

    One of the ancillary windfalls that comes with any co-production benefits the actors themselves. The casts of both The Great Leap and American Mariachi were signed to four-month contracts. In a business where actors are most often signed to smaller contracts ranging from just four to eight weeks, an extended co-pro is about the best job they can get outside of a long run in New York.

    American Mariachi in San Diego. Photo by John Moore“I feel very lucky, and I think everyone else who is involved with this play feels very lucky to be a part of it,” said Plasencia.

    But the biggest benefit, says Rodney Lizcano and others, is the familia that takes shape when a creative team spends that much more time together. The American Mariachi team performs six days a week, he said. And yet, he said, they have almost to a person spent nearly every day off together as well.

    “There has been a consistently positive camaraderie since Day 1,” he said. “We share or lives both onstage and offstage — and I think the performances have deepened because of that.”

    Which makes ultimate benefit of a co-pro to the play itself and, by extension, to its expanded audiences.

    “I always had a feeling that this was going to be a very special play for everyone who saw it, and it has come to pass because it tells a story that audiences are hungry for at this very moment in our history,” Plasencia said of American Mariachi. “This is a story about inclusion and seeing yourself represented onstage, and I feel like a lot of people have been longing for a play like this. I think there is an audience this play in every big city in the country.”

    And in every audience is the potential for another life-changing moment, like that 12-year-old boy at the final dress rehearsal of American Mariachi in San Diego.

    “It is such an honor to walk out into that theatre lobby each night and see crowds of Latino families. That doesn't happen a lot,” Vásquez said. “Just tonight, a young Latino friend came up to me and said the moment the lights came up and the music started and he saw Mexican people onstage, he just started crying — because he had never seen anything like it.

    “I think that's the biggest takeaway.”

    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.


    American Mariachi in San Diego. Photo by Douglas Gates
    'American Mariachi' in San Diego. Photo by Douglas Gates.


    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of American Mariachi:

    Behind the scenes video: Making the Great Wall of American Mariachi
    Tony Garcia: American Mariachi is an American beauty
    When Leonor Perez found mariachi, she found her true voice
    American Mariachi
    Perspectives: Music as a powerful memory trigger
    Photos, video: Your first look at American Mariachi
    American Mariachi
    's second community conversation: Food, music and tough issues
    Cast announced, and 5 things we learned at first rehearsal
    American Mariachi
    : Community conversation begins
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices
    Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company season
    Denver Center taking new plays to new level in 2017-18

     

    The Great Leap in Seattle'The Great Leap' in Seattle. Photo by John Moore.

    Selected previous coverage of The Great Leap:
    The Great Leap prepares for its big bound to Seattle
    Lauren Yee: “This play would not exist without the Denver Center'
    Video: First look at The Great Leap, and five things we learned at Perspectives
    For The Great Leap playwright Lauren Yee, family is a generation map
    Five pieces of fun hoops history to know, like: What's a pick and roll?
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal, with photos
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Vast and visceral: Theatre Company season will include The Great Leap

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Gustavo Márquez of 'Native Gardens': From the box office to the big time

    by John Moore | Apr 13, 2018
    Gustavo Marquez Quote

    He's been a janitor and a Denver Center ticket agent. And tonight he takes the stage in his Theatre Company debut.  

    MEET GUSTAVO MÁRQUEZ
    Lisa Portes quote Gustavo Márquez, a member of the Native Gardens ensemble, is making his DCPA Theatre Company debut. He recently played the crazed, bug-eating servant Renfield in Dracula for the Aurora Fox (and Westword's Juliet Wittman called him excellent at it). He played Cassius, Adriano and other roles (both in English and Spanish) in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's educational productions of The Comedy of Errors and Julius Caesar. He appeared in Local Lab's controversial reading of The Merchant of Venice, and in the Colorado-born production of I Am Alive that played at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, Calif. Other stage credits include The Tempest, Metamorphoses, You Can't Take It With You, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Mozart's The Magic Flute.

    • Hometown: Aurora
    • Home now: Denver
    • High School: Rangeview
    • Training: BFA from Metropolitan State University of Denver
    • What's your handle? @gooosetee on Twitter and @goosetee on Instagram
    • Twitter-sized bio: Shall I compare me to a summer’s day? Yes, yes, I will: I’m like a summer’s day!
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? Many things! But a primatologist would be one. I’ve always been fascinated with apes, specifically chimpanzees, and how similar we are to them. And I find them to be adorable.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: I played Monostatos in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Monostatos is a treacherous villain, and he is written as a Moor. Also, I am a tenor, and that character was clearly meant to be a baritone. But I pulled it off. FKA_twigs
    • Bucket-list role: Usnavi from In the Heights
    • What's playing on your Spotify? FKA TWIGS (pictured right) and Princess Nokia do wonders to the soul.
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I was a 19-year-old janitor in Antarctica.
    • What's one thing we already know about you, but other people probably don't: I have been working in the Denver Center's box office as a ticket agent since 2016. 
    • And what does Native Gardens Director Lisa Portes have to say about that? "I think it's going to be such a treat for those audiences who may have bought their ticket from Gustavo to then see him in the play, because he brings such beautiful life to the stage. And I will tell you a little secret: When we were looking for pre-show music in Spanish having to do with gardens, Gustavo emailed me a list of songs. So those are his." 
    • Phantom 2009 Photo by Christine Cudia MoldovanOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: I saw The Phantom of the Opera at the Buell Theatre in Denver when I was in high school back in 2009. The Phantom was singing "Music of the Night," and right when he was about to sing his last note of the song, the sound went out. What happened after was nothing short of amazing. The actor, John Cudia, was able to fill the whole theatre with sound using just his unamplified voice. What I realized in that moment was pure, focused talent that I could attain as well, with hard work. (Photo: John Cudia and Trista Moldovan in the 2009 touring production of 'The Phantom of the Opera.' Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann.)
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? The next generation of theatregoers will be the most diverse this country has ever seen. It is important that what is presented on stage is just as diverse as they are.
    • What is Native Gardens all about? Karen Zacarías' play is about a young Latino couple who move into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though their neighbors have the best intentions, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be.
    • Why does Native Gardens matter? Because it teaches us that we can improve as a society despite our society's past actions. Even if we, or our past generations have transgressed against each other, we must learn from those past events and experiences and improve. Don’t feel guilty for what your ancestors did or how they behaved, just change the way you are living now.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Native Gardens? That we must forgive the past by improving the present to make the future better for all.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I enjoy American Chinese food more than Mexican food. And I feel so blasphemous saying that!

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    the-company-of-native-gardens-photo-by-adamsviscom_41396747291_o

    The company of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' Photo by Adams Viscom for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 


    Native Gardens
    : Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    • Meet Jake Mendes of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • Video, photos: Your first look at 'Native Gardens'

    by John Moore | Apr 11, 2018
    Video:

    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk the DCPA NewsCenter

    Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's production of Native Gardens, Karen Zacarías' celebrated comedy about a young Latino couple who move into a fixer-upper next to an older couple with a beautifully kept garden. All is is well until the young couple discover their property line actually extends about 2 feet over their neighbors' prized flowerbed. Performances run through May 6 in the Space Theatre. Directed by Lisa Portes and featuring John Ahlin, Jordan Baker, Mariana Fernández and Ryan Garbayo. Complete cast and creative team.


    Photo gallery: The official production photos

    Native GardensOfficial gallery of 'Native Gardens' production photos. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Native Gardens: Ticket information
    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Meet Gia Valverde: Denver native finds a home in 'Native Gardens'

    by John Moore | Apr 11, 2018
    Gia Valverde QUOTE. Photo by John Moore
    Photo by John Moore.

    The first time the actor saw a play at Su Teatro, she knew she wanted to be an actor. Now she's at the Denver Center.  

    MEET GIA VALVERDE
    gia_valverde Gia Valverde is a born-and-raised Denver Northsider. She has been a company member for Su Teatro for more than 20 years. She originated roles in the world premieres of Enrique’s Journey, When Pigs Fly and Men Have Babies; El Louie and Other Post-Pachuco Dreams; and Dancing with the Spirits, all by Anthony J. Garcia. She has also been in plays by Chicano Teatro greats Luis Valdez , Rudolfo Anaya, Rodrigo Duarte Clark and Evelina Fernandez. She has done multiple film and commercial roles including "The Frame," "Love Pirates" and is the lead in the upcoming web series "One Moment Longer." She as also been seen in music videos for Molina Speaks and Kontrast & Fo Chief.

    • Hometown: Denver
    • Home now: Denver
    • Training: The Art Institute of Colorado
    • What's your handle? @GiaValverde on Twitter
    • Website: eazymedia.biz
    • Twitter-sized bio: Multimedia designer, actor, mother, Denver Northsider and burrito connoisseur
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I also run a multimedia business specializing in video production, graphic and web design. I like to bounce back and forth between acting and multimedia because they allow me to tell stories in different mediums, and they are both just as much my passions as my professions.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: I played an executioner in Dancing with Spirits by Anthony J. Garcia.
    • Bucket-list role: Anita in West Side Story
    • What's playing on your Spotify? Smino’s 'blkswn' album
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? You will occasionally find me rolling burritos (mostly eating them) at Lucero’s & Sons on 52nd Avenue and Pecos Street.
    • Gia Valverde Su Teatro Native GardensOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: The first time I saw a play at Su Teatro, I knew I wanted to be an actor. Seeing Chicano representation on stage at a young age helped me take the leap from dream to do. I joined the Su Teatro company immediately after seeing a show at 11 years old. They became my second family. (Pictured from left: Sonia Justl, Marianna Chavez, Gia Valverde and Amy Luna in Su Teatro's 'The Lamented Last Dance at the Rainbow Ballroom.')
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? The Denver Center is putting out a lot of shows with diverse casts lately. The next generation of theatregoers are going to be brought in by diversity and representation.
    • What is Native Gardens all about? Karen Zacarías' play is about a young Latino couple who move into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though their neighbors have the best intentions, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be.
    • Why does The Native Gardens matter? This is an important play right now because it represents the conversation a lot of Americans are having, and offers us a fresh perspective allowing us to see what is really important.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Native Gardens? I love that this play features a Latino couple that goes against stereotype, and I hope the audience finds that refreshing as well.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I’m passionate about self-love in all forms and practicing In Lak'Ech (The Living Code of the Heart).

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Native Gardens: Ticket information
    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    • Meet Jake Mendes of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • The ‘Native Gardens’ set: ‘You can smell the dirt’

    by John Moore | Apr 10, 2018
    Making of 'Native Gardens'
    Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's "Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to the full photo gallery Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    'These are yards you have seen in your real life. And it feels like you are sitting in the garden with everybody else.'

    (Note: Perspectives is a series of free public panel discussions held just before the first preview  performance of each DCPA Theatre Company offering. Next up: The Who's Tommy: 6 p.m. Friday, April 20, Jones Theatre)

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Karen Zacarías' popular play Native Gardens, opening Friday in The Space Theatre, is a genial comedy about two neighboring couples “who have a lot in common … and who have nothing in common — at the same time,” Director of New Play Development Doug Langworthy says.

    They live side-by-side in an established suburb of Washington, D.C. One couple is older and white, the other younger and Latinx. Though these new neighbors have the best intentions, their budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. And it runs right through Frank Butley’s prized native garden.

    “What this play is trying to say is that whatever our differences are — sex, race or religion — we should still be able to live next door to each other in a loving way,” said veteran Broadway actor Jordan Baker.

    Here are five things we learned about the DCPA Theatre Company's upcoming production at Perspectives:  

    NUMBER 1

    Sowing the seeds of history. Karen Zacarías now has the distinction of being the first female playwright in DCPA Theatre Company history to have had plays produced in all three of the company’s main theatres. Mariela in the Desert played in the Ricketson Theatre in 2010, Just Like Us played in the Stage Theatre in 2014 and now Native Gardens is set to open in The Space Theatre on Friday. "And all three plays are so very different,” she said. “Mariella was a drama, Just Like Us was a serio-documentary and Native Gardens is a full-throttle comedy." The only other playwright to have had plays performed in all of those same spaces was Nagle Jackson (1992-2003). "The Denver Center has been a home for me for so many years now," Zacarías  said, "I am so grateful that they have been willing to take a chance on new plays, and plays by Latina women."

    NUMBER 2NATIVE GARDENS Perspectives. Karen Zacarías. Photo by John Moore. So what is a native garden, anyway? It is defined as the use of plants, including trees, shrubs, groundcover and grasses that are indigenous to the geographic area of the garden. Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. Native plant species provide nectar, pollen and seeds that serve as food for butterflies, insects, birds and other animals. Unlike natives, common horticultural plants do not provide energetic rewards for their visitors and often require pest controls to survive. Native plants do not require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides than lawns. Native plants help reduce air pollution and can significantly reduce water runoff.

    NUMBER 3Smell that dirt. Zacarías encourages audiences to look closely at the set created by DCPA Scenic Designer Lisa Orzolek, because, she says, it is another character in the play. “There is real dirt. And you can smell it,” Zacarías said. “These are yards that you have seen in your real life. The grass is uneven. There are patches. Any because this play is being staged in the round, it feels like you are sitting in the garden with everybody else.” Orzolek said the garden consists of both real plants "and fake plants that look super-real.” Every night after the show, the stagehands remove the real plants from the stage and place them under backstage grow lights.

    Read more: Native Gardens draws its line in the soil

    NUMBER 4A tree grows in D.C. That set is dominated by a very large and meaningful oak tree that grows tall and encompasses the entire air space. “The oak tree is very important in any native garden,” Zacarías said. “They have the most biodiversity of any tree species.” The tree is a source of conflict between the couples because one of them loves the tree, while the other does not — and its branches are growing over into their yard. “On the page, it would seem that the tree is situated between the two houses, just on one side of the property line — but you can't put a big tree in the middle of a stage in the round because of the sightline problems that would create," Orzolek said. So she positioned the trunk in one of the Space Theatre’s five “voms” (or actor entranceways). “In order for the tree to reach all the way across the theatre, it just kept getting taller and longer and wider,” Orzolek said. "It goes up and then comes back down. It's 24 feet tall and 30 feet wide.” How did they do it? “That's the magic of theatre," she said. And we will show you some of that magic in the coming days with a special DCPA NewsCenter video devoted to the making of the tree. Stay tuned. 

    NUMBER 5Let's grow together. Zacarías wrote Native Gardens before the 2016 election, and it will be one of the 10 most performed plays in America this season. “I feel the reason this play is being done in so many cities right now is because it gives your community, whether you are on the left or the right, a chance to laugh at yourself and remember that we are all part of a bigger microcosm," she said. "This play doesn't solve all the world's problems, but it does allow us to analyze what we can do to be a better neighbor — which is a question I think a lot of us are wrestling with right now.”

    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.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NATIVE GARDENS Perspectives. Photo by John MooreFrom left: Actor John Ahlin,  Director of New Play Development Doug Langworthy, playwright Karen Zacarías, Scenic Designer Lisa Orzolek, Costume Designer Raquel Barreto and actors Mariana Fernández and Jordan Baker. Photo by John Moore.

    Native Gardens: Ticket information
    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Through May 6
    • SpaceTheatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    Photos, cast list: Native Gardens draws line in the soil
    Meet Jordan Baker: 'It’s hard to listen when the message is a brick'
  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'Sweat'

    by John Moore | Apr 09, 2018

    In the video above, playwright Lynn Nottage and Broadway director Kate Whoriskey talk about connecting to the human experience with 'Sweat.'


    Note: In this daily series, we have been taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. Today we finish with Sweat

    Sweat

    • Written by: Lynn Nottage
    • Year: 2015
    • Director: Nataki Garrett
    • Dates: April 26-May 26, 2019 (Opens May 3)
    • Where: Space Theatre
    • Genre: Drama
    • Ruined. Photo by Terry Shapiro. About the author: Nottage is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter from Brooklyn. In a national survey conducted by the DCPA NewsCenter following the 2017 death of Edward Albee, Nottage placed third as the leading, living voice in American playwriting, behind only Tony Kushner and Sam Shepard (who has since passed away). "Lynn Nottage, like August Wilson before her, spotlights the marginalized without sentiment, sensationalism or a victim mentality," The Denver Post wrote in 2011. Sweat won the Pulitzer, an Obie Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and was nominated for a Tony Award. Ruined, which also won a Pulitzer, is set amid civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, based on the playwright's interviews with Congolese women, exposing largely unknown radical and violent injustice that happening in Africa. That made for one of the most remarkable productions in DCPA Theatre Company history in 2011. Nottage's Intimate Apparel has been presented at the Arvada Center and, just last month, at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. Nottage is currently an artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Armory. (Pictured above: Kim Staunton in the DCPA's 'Ruined.' Photo by Terry Shapiro.)
    • lynn-nottage QUOTEThe play at a glance: For the people of poverty-stricken Reading, Pa., work is  much more than a paycheck – it’s the glue that has held the town together for generations. The floor of their central factory is where lifelong friendships are made, where love blossoms and where family members work side-by-side. But as layoffs become the new norm and a cheaper workforce threatens the viability of the local union, the threads that once kept the community together begin to fray. Using warm humor and deep empathy, Nottage paints a moving portrait of today’s working-class America in decline.
    • Says the playwright: "I very much wanted the play to be a conversation starter. I feel my role as an artist isn't to come up with solutions but to ask the right questions at the right moment.”
    • Says new DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "One of the things I love the most about Lynn Nottage is the way she takes an idea and makes it human. Lynn is a significant voice in the American theatre, and I’m thrilled we get to experience her work again. We’re also incredibly lucky to have a powerhouse director like Nataki Garrett at the helm of this important drama, and I look forward to taking the questions this play asks and diving deeper into conversations with the Denver community.”

    The N.Y. Times article that inspired Nottage to write Sweat

    • The author's influence: Nottage began working on the play in 2011 by interviewing residents of Reading, which at the time was, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, officially one of the poorest cities in America, with a poverty rate of 41 percent. Nottage was particularly influenced by a New York Times article reporting on that city. "Reading is a city that’s sort of hopelessly fractured along racial and economic lines," Nottage told the Village Voice. "When you’re there, you feel it."
    • What the critics have said about Sweat: The New York Times called Sweat "an extraordinarily moving drama that powerfully contrasts life’s happiest highs with the heart-wrenching struggles of survival." The play's characters have  been described as the same kind of disenfranchised blue-collar workers who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Michael Schulman of The New Yorker called Sweat "the first theatrical landmark of the Trump Era —  a tough yet empathetic portrait of the America that came undone." He also said Nottage's play "harks back to the working-class naturalism of Clifford Odets." Wrote Jeremy Gerard of Deadline: “No play in recent memory has shed more light on the crises and tribulations of America’s great retrenched working middle class than Sweat."
    • Notes on the play: Sweat was first performed by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015. It moved to to Broadway after a sold out off-Broadway run at The Public Theater. The Broadway cast included Carlo AlbanLydia5, who made an indelible turn in the DCPA Theatre Company's Lydia in 2008 (pictured right. ... The action takes place in a fictional bar. The story tells of two meetings: One between a parole officer and two ex-convictl the other three women who were childhood friends working in the same factory. Switching scenes from the present with eight years before, Nottage shows how events take these characters on divergent pathways ... Lower education generally means higher poverty.  Just 8 percent of Reading residents have a bachelor’s degree. The national average is 28 percent.

    TC-web-Season-Ann-800x3004
    Artwork by DCPA Senior Graphic Designer Kyle Malone.

    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 'The Book of Will' wins national critics' Steinberg New Play Award

    by John Moore | Apr 08, 2018


    Highlights from he DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere staging of 'The Book of Will' in 2017. Videos by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Lauren Gunderson scores the nation's largest prize for new plays, which comes with a $25,000 cash award

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Lauren Gunderson’s celebrated play The Book of Will was named the winner of the American Theatre Critics Association's Steinberg New Play Award on Saturday night at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky.

    The award, which comes with a $25,000 prize, considers scripts that were premiered by professional theatre companies outside New York City during 2017.

    Lauren Gunderson Quote AwardThe Book of Will
    was commissioned by the DCPA Theatre Company, developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit and given its world premiere on the Ricketson Theatre last year. It has since been scheduled for productions around the country, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, opening June 6. The play already has been staged at theatres in New York, Illinois and Maryland.

    Without William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have literary masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without his friends Henry Condell and John Heminges, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever. Gunderson's play tells what the two actors sacrificed when they endeavored to compile the First Folio and preserve Shakespeare's words after the death of their friend and mentor.

    “For a play about theatre-makers to garner this honor in this company is so meaningful,” Gunderson said. “Thank you to the Denver Center and Kent Thompson for commissioning and premiering the play, to Davis McCallum for his heartfelt direction and to  all the artists who worked on it to make it full of soul. Also to ATCA for all they do, and to Jim Steinberg, who is a generous visionary.”

    The play was commissioned under former Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, who calls The Book of Will "a love letter to Shakespeare, to actors and to the theatre."

    Video: Our interview with playwright Lauren Gunderson

    The Book of Will fires on all cylinders” said one unnamed judge, according to an ACTA press release. Said others:

    • “The play wrestles with big questions: Why do we create, and how do we deal with death? What constitutes a legacy? And how a surpassing love for something bigger can make every sacrifice worth it.”
    • “This play is all the more impressive given that we know how the story will end."
    • “It’s funny — genuinely funny — in a way that feels contemporary and yet not cynical.” 

    Denver Center audience member Artis Roslyn Silverman said it was the play’s themes of friendship, love and devotion to craft that made the play memorable to her. “I still quote lines from the play,” she said.

    Denver Center's sudden impact on national theatre scene in 2017-18

    Two additional citations that come with $7,500 prizes were presented to Molly Smith Metzler’s Cry It Out and Ike Holter’s The Wolf at the End of the Block, which had their world premieres respectively at the Humana Festival and by Teatro Vista at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater. At $40,000, the Steinberg is the largest national new-play award program recognizing regional theaters as the crucible for new plays in the United States, according to the ATCA.

    Cry It Out 
    focuses on the bonds and barriers between two new mothers across a backyard and across class differences. It wrestles with issues of female friendship and class and privilege while still being a story about two people. The Wolf at the End of the Block is centered on a beating outside of a Chicago bar. Other finalists for the Steinberg/ATCA Award were Linda Vista and The Minutes, both by Tracy Letts; and Objects in the Mirror by Charles Smith.

    The six finalists were selected from eligible scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country. They were evaluated by a committee of theater critics, led by Lou Harry, who has written for theatrecriticism.com, The Sondheim Review, and many other publications.

    “Once again, the panel has bowled me over with its rigorous and passionate debate,” said Harry, “and once again playwrights and theaters from around the country have supplied us with plays worthy of those fierce discussions. Together, these six plays speak well of the American theatre today. Individually, they speak to the excitement and originality of some of our finest playwrights.”

    Other committee members were:

    • Misha Berson, Seattle Times (Seattle)
    • Bruce Burgun, The New Orleans Advocate (New Orleans)
    • Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times (Madison, Wis.)
    • Amanda Finn, Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
    • Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, (Milwaukee)
    • Pam Harbaugh, floridatheatreonstage.com (Indialantic, Fla.)
    • Erin Keane, Salon (Louisville, Ky.)
    • Mark Lowry, theaterjones.com, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Dallas)
    • Jonathan Mandell, newyorktheater.me  (New York)
    • Julius Novick, freelance (New York)
    • Marjorie Oberlander, freelance (New York)
    • Kathryn Osenlund, freelance (Philadelphia)
    • Wendy Parker, freelance (Midlothian, Va.)
    • Wendy Rosenfield, broadstreetreview.com (Philadelphia)
    • David Sheward, artsinny.com, theaterlife.com (Jackson Heights, N.Y.)
    • Martha Wade Steketee, freelance (New York)
    • Perry Tannenbaum, Creative Loafing, (Charlotte)
    • Bob Verini, Variety (Boston)

    Denver Center's 'Georgia McBride' to be a film starring Jim Parsons

    In 1977, ATCA began to honor new plays produced at regional theaters outside New York City, where there are many awards. Since 2000, the award has been funded by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

    Since its inception, ATCA’s New Play Award honorees have included Moisés Kaufman, Adrienne Kennedy, Craig Lucas, Donald Margulies, Arthur Miller, Marsha Norman, Robert Schenkkan, August Wilson, Lanford Wilson, and Mac Wellman.

    Last year’s honoree was Man in the Ring by Michael Cristofer. 

    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.

    Photo gallery: The making of The Book of Will at the Denver Center

    'The Book of Will' in Denver

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are downloadable from our Flickr site above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Production photo gallery:

    The Book of Will- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season Production photos by Adams VisCom. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Selected previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage of The Book of Will:
    Video: Your first look at The Book of Will
    Perspectives: Why is there a bobble-head on that set?
    Guest columnist Lauren Gunderson: How one word can change a play
    Five things we learned at The Book of Will opening rehearsal
    'The Year of Gunderson' has begun in Colorado
    Video: Take a tour of The Book of Will set
    Shakespeare in a season with no Shakespeare
    First Folio: The world's second-most important book heads to Boulder
    Video: Our look back at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    Summit Spotlight: Playwright Lauren Gunderson
    Lauren Gunderson wins Lanford Wilson Award from Dramatists Guild of America
    Just who were all the king's men, anyway?
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics
    Meet the cast: Jennifer Le Blanc
    Meet the cast: Wesley Mann
    Meet the cast: Rodney Lizcano

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'The Whistleblower'

    by John Moore | Apr 08, 2018
    Itamar Moses QUOTE


    Note: In this daily series, we are taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. Today: The Whistleblower

    The Whistleblower

    • Written by: Itamar Moses
    • Year: 2019 (world premiere)
    • Director: To be announced
    • Dates: Feb. 8-March 10, 2019 (Opens Feb. 15)
    • Where: Space Theatre
    • Genre: Contemporary comic drama
    • About the author: Itamar Moses is the award-winning book writer of the musical The Band's Visit, one of the most acclaimed new musicals on Broadway this season. That's the story of a stranded Egyptian police band that is sent to a remote village in the middle of the Israeli desert and are taken in by the locals. He's also the author of seven plays, two other musicals and an evening of shorts.
    • The Whistleblower. Photo by Adams ViscomThe play at a glance: For screenwriter Eli, an offer to finally create his own TV show should be the ultimate culmination of his goals, but instead shocks him into wondering why he had those dreams in the first place. Armed with a new sense of spiritual clarity, he sets out on a quest to serve up some hard truths to his co-workers, family, exes and friends. What could possibly go wrong? The Whistleblower will be a lively world premiere about the lies we tell to protect ourselves  and how the tiniest gestures can have deep impact on those around us.
    • Says new DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "Itamar Moses is an absolutely brilliant playwright and an exciting voice to have on the season. This new play is hilarious, thought-provoking and really kind of a spiritual journey. When this man recognizes that there is a discord between his inner self and his authentic self, he begins telling the truth about the relationships in his life. And the people around him think he's lost his mind. He comes to a place that I think is very hopeful at the end. When I read it, I was absolutely knocked out. Itamar takes us on a humorous exploration of our purpose and whether our actions have the power to affect others. I’m incredibly honored to produce it as our second world premiere of the season."

    Read more: Los Angeles Times profile of Itamar Moses

    • From the author: "Any piece of writing needs to be getting at some truth, or excavating something unspoken, in order to have energy and hold our attention. So I got really interested in the idea of a character who, either because he's in a period of great clarity, or is maybe having some kind of psychological episode, or both, just starts channeling truth — or at least the truth as he sees it. I was compelled and amused by the idea of sort of firing this character out of a cannon at the beginning of the story and then watching as the sort of wind resistance of the rest of the world gradually brings him back down to earth."
    • THE WHISTLEBLOWER. South Coast Repertory. Photo by Debora RobinsonSmall world: Rob Nagle, who appeared in DCPA Theatre Company productions of The 39 Steps and Appoggiatura, was in the original cast of The Whistleblower as it was being developed at the South Coast Repertory's 2015 Pacific Playwrights Festival in Costa Mesa, Calif. It was his third Moses play. "One thing I love about The Whistleblower, and many of Itamar’s plays, as well as James Still’s Appoggiatura, is that it’s a modern Odyssey," Nagle told the DCPA NewsCenter. "Itamar takes characters through profound journeys of self discovery. And for me, that’s what great storytelling is all about.” (Pictured from left: Director Casey Stangl, Matthew Arkin and Rob Nagle in rehearsal for South Coast Repertory's 2015 reading of 'The Whitstleblower,' Photo by Debora Robinson. Note: The DCPA production has not yet been cast.)
    • What the critics have said about Itamar Moses' work: Ben Brantley of The New York Times called The Band's Visit "a Broadway rarity seldom found these days outside of the canon of Stephen Sondheim: An honest-to-God musical for grown-ups."
    • Fun facts: Moses, the child of Israeli immigrants, says seeing Tony Kushner's Angels in America as a high-school senior in Berkeley, Calif., is what inspired him to become a playwright ... Colorado theatre audiences got their first look at a Moses play in 2013 when the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company staged an extended run of Bach at Leipzig, a comic farce based on the true story of when Germany’s greatest organist dies, and the town city council invites a small number of scheming musicians to audition for the appointment — including a young Johann Sebastian Bach. ... The Band's Visit stars Tony Shalhoub (Monk), whose brother is Denver actor Michael Shalhoub. ... Coleman was onto Moses early. He staged the world premiere of his play Outrage at Portland Center Stage back in 2003, and the premiere of his play Celebrity Row in 2006, also at Portland ... The Whistleblower was first introduced as a 2014 staged reading at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Steamboat Springs (directed by Oliver Butler), and then was featured in South Coast Repertory's 2015 Pacific Playwrights Festival alongside Qui Nguyen's Vietgone, which will open the DCPA Theatre Company's season in August. The tagline for the play then was: "Eli tries to rewrite the life he left behind — but the truth could ruin everything." ... Moses, who trained at New York University, was an Executive Story Editor for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."

    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'Last Night and the Night Before'

    by John Moore | Apr 06, 2018

    In the video above, playwright Donnetta Lavinia Grays talks about "Last Night and the Night Before" at the Denver Center's 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Note: In this daily series, we are taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 mainstage season. Today: Last Night and the Night Before.

    Last Night and the Night Before

    • Written by: Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    • Year: 2019 (world premiere)
    • Director: Valerie Curtis-Newton
    • Dates: Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens Jan. 25)
    • Where: Ricketson Theatre
    • Genre: Family drama/mystery
    • Donnetta Lavinia Grays. Last Night And the Night Before. About the author: Donnetta Lavinia Grays, born in Panama and raised in Columbia, S.C., is a Brooklyn-based actor and playwright whose plays have been staged, read or developed at Berkeley Rep, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference. the New York Theater Workshop, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Portland (Maine) Stage Company, Classical Theater of Harlem and more. She is the inaugural recipient of the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award. Acting credits include Broadway’s Well and In the Next Room Or the Vibrator Play, as well as TV's "Blue Bloods" and "The Sopranos." Grays says she seeks to write strong roles for women of various ages, races, sexual identities and economic standings. She believes the most radical theater happens when cultural specificity meets common human conflict. She also believes that humor should marry heartbreak at most turns in a narrative.
    • The play at a glance: When Monique and her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it shakes up Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble and brings their family’s Southern roots with her, grabbing hold of Rachel’s life more ferociously than she could have ever imagined. Poetic, powerful and remarkably funny, Last Night and the Night Before play explores the struggle between the responsibilities that are expected of us and the choices we actually end up making.

    On navigating trauma: Our full interview with the playwright

    • Says new DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "Last Night and the Night Before is another testament to the amazing works that have come out of the Colorado New Play Summit. Donnetta Lavinia Grays is an incredibly special writer, and the heart she brings to all of her work as an actress shines through in this beautiful play. This is a story about families. It's about why one sibling goes one way the other goes another. It's about what comprises a family today and how this young kid finds unbelievable emotional resilience in very tricky, difficult circumstances, It's a beautiful play, a deeply human story, and I’m thrilled that we get to be the first to produce it. I’m sure that we will not be the last.”
    • Last Night And the Night Before. Photo by John MooreFrom the author: "Sam has suffered a traumatic event in her life. She is in the unfortunate position of being at the mercy of the adults in her life who are trying to safeguard her from what she has suffered. And now she is having to suffer the consequences of their decisions. I think Last Night and the Night Before is a play about the tremendous, enduring component of love in our lives. It is a play about loss. It is a play about family. And it is a play about finding your singular voice as a woman coming into adulthood."
    • What the critics have said about Donnetta Lavinia Grays' acting: "Grays is one of those actors who can enthrall while doing nothing more than standing still, listening, in character. What a treat to get to watch her do so." — OffOffOnline ... "Even before her wrenching second-act monologue, Donnetta Lavinia Grays proves the soul of the piece," — Indianapolis Business Journal, on Ruined.
    • Fun facts: This play was featured in the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Its original title was, simply, Sam. The new title references a line from the children’s game: "Last night and the night before, I met my baby at the candy store."... Says Grays, in describing herself on her website: "I will act for food. Or write a play. )r direct one for that matter so long as food is involved. Or, you know, whiskey."... She says her dream project "is to write something sexy with African-American roots and folk music."

    Last Night And the Night Before. Photo by John Moore
    Photos: Director Valerie Curtis-Newton (above) and her cast at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit.


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'A Christmas Carol'

    by John Moore | Apr 05, 2018

    In the video above, DCPA Theatre Company Costume Crafts Director Kevin Copenhaver talks with actor Darrell T. Joe about the transformation of Christmas Yet to Come into a taller, larger and more imposing figure for the company's 2017 seasonal staging of 'A Christmas Carol.' Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.



    Note: In this daily series, we will take a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. Today: A Christmas Carol

    A Christmas Carol

    • Written by Charles Dickens. Adapted for the stage by Richard Hellesen with music by David de Berry
    • Year: 1987
    • Sam Gregory A Christmas CarolDirector: Melissa Rain Anderson
    • Dates: Nov. 21-Dec. 24, 2018 (Opens Nov. 29)
    • Where: Stage Theatre
    • Genre: Victorian classic set to music
    • At a glance: Based on Charles Dickens’ populist novel, the Theatre Company’s joyous and opulent seasonal offering traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption.
    • Says new DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "When I got to see this production in December, I was so excited about it. This company has put together a beautiful production that, frankly, is the best I’ve ever seen of this story. Clearly this version has resonated with Denver audiences for generations. This is a story about reclaiming a human heart — and I don't think that ever gets old. But at its core, A Christmas Carol is a ghost story, and I think at the darkest time of year, when we're so ready for the light to return, a ghost story makes really good sense. And this is a ghost story that's really well told."
    • He's back: Denver theatre favorite Sam Gregory, presently starring as Joe Keller in the Arvada Center's All My Sons through May 3, is scheduled to return for a third time playing Scrooge. "Sam is a great sport and a thoroughbred actor taking iMelissa Rain Anderson quote n the barrage and letting it move him nightly, moment by moment," says director Melissa Rain Anderson, who also will be returning for her third staging.
    • More from the director: "For my first two stagings, it was important to focus on the clarity and impact of the ghosts. This year, I will continue to fine-tune that storytelling. My through-line for every actor and element on that stage (besides Sam) is to 'assault' Scrooge: That's our only job: To awaken his soul. I believe every moment of the play can be funneled through that action. The ghosts do a lot of the assaulting, but other tactics are employed as well: The purity and joy of the children, the loyalty of Scrooge's nephew Fred, the generosity of The Fezziwigs and the humanity and grace of Bob Cratchit."
    • What the critics have said: "The evening ends in a kind of transformation — and not just Scrooge’s." — Juliet Wittman, Westword. "Some stories stand the test of time by their persistent relevance. And in this respect, Dickens' A Christmas Carol is near the top of the list." — Alex Miller, Vail Daily
    • Fun facts: The Theatre Company's "almost annual" staging of A Christmas Carol now includes 25 stagings dating back to 1990. In that time, nearly 850,000 people have watched the timeless story here  ... Last year, Peyton Goosen became the first young girl to play Tiny Tim in all of the DCPA stagings.  

    A Christmas Carol 2017 cast. Photo by Adams Viscom
    The 2017 cast of 'A Christmas Carol.' Photo by Adams Viscom. 


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Selected NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Carol 2017:
  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'The Constant Wife'

    by John Moore | Apr 04, 2018

    Chris Coleman The Constant Wife. Photo by Adams VisCom
    Photo by Adams VisCom.



    Note: In this daily series, we will take a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. Today: The Constant Wife

    The Constant Wife

    • Written by: W. Somerset Maugham
    • Year: 1927
    • The Constant Wife 2005Director: Shelley Butler, who will first helm Human Error (May 18 in the Galleria Theater). In 2013, Butler directed the world premiere of Catherine Trieschmann's comedy The Most Deserving, which was later presented in New York.
    • Dates: Sept. 21-Oct. 21 (Opens Sept. 28)
    • Where: Space Theatre
    • Genre: Satire of manners
    • At a glance: As the intelligent, charming housewife of a successful and wealthy doctor, Constance Middleton would appear to have everything as she cheerfully plays her traditional role. But she knows far more than she’s willing to let on. This cheeky satire pokes holes in the expectations of relationships, fidelity and social roles that are just as relevant today as they were in the 1920s. The Constant Wife takes joy in the imperfections of life and applauds those who elude the strict confines of society to discover true happiness. 
    • Says Artistic Director Chris  Coleman: “I was knocked out the first time I read this play. It’s a hilariously witty, totally fresh, unbelievably modern look at marriage. It’s almost 100 years old, and it feels like it was written yesterday. Here you have this upper-class British family, and this very privileged woman finds out early on that her husband is having an affair with her best friend — and she's like, "Yeah ... so?" This woman learns how tackle the world on her own outside of any prescribed relationship. It’s delicious to watch her make those discoveries and forge her own economic future. I also think this is the kind of play that this company can do extraordinarily well.
    • The constancy of today: "This seems like the perfect play for the 'Me Too moment' of today," Coleman said, "because here you've got a wife who's has a total lack of sentiment on the subject of matrimony. She is the perfectly modern wife.
    • What the critics have said: "Maugham is concerned with the hypocrisy of the moral double standard imposed upon men and women, and recognizes, surely in advance of his time, that for a woman, the only important freedom is economic freedom. He is also willing, cynically perhaps, to castigate the modern wife of his period as, in the bitter words of his heroine: 'The prostitute who doesn't deliver the goods.' it is a perceptive enough attack on the upper‐middle-class English marriage of his age." — The New York Times' Clive Barnes in 1975.
    Constant Wives On Broadway, 'The Constant Wife' has been played by, from left, Katharine Cornell (1951), Ethel Barrymore (1926), Ingrid Bergman (1975) and Kate Burton (2005).

    • About the author: Maugham was a wildly popular British novelist and short-story writer who was reportedly the highest-paid author in the world throughout the 1930s. He was praised for having a clear, unadorned style, cosmopolitan settings and a shrewd understanding of human nature. He is perhaps best remembered for his novels Of Human Bondage (1915) and The Razor’s Edge (1944), the latter the story of a young American war veteran’s quest for a satisfying way of life.
    • Fun facts: Variety called Maugham’s protagonist in The Constant Wife “a perverse protofeminist — and an antecedent to the women of “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex and the City” ... The Constant Wife has been staged on Broadway four times, most recently in 2005 starring Kate Burton (daughter of Richard) as Constance. (Lynn Redgrave played her mother, pictured above and right). In 1975, Ingrid Bergman played Constance, Katharine Cornell in 1951 and Ethel Barrymore originated the role in 1927. So no pressure, 2018 Constance, whoever you turn out to be.


    TC-web-Season-Ann-800x30034(Artwork by  DCPA Senior Graphic Designer Kyle Malone.) 


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: Your first look at 'Vietgone'

    by John Moore | Apr 02, 2018

    Vietgone. Oregon Shakespeare Festival
    James Ryen and Will Dao in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2016 production of 'Vietgone,' which is not a story about war. It’s a story about falling in love. Photo courtesy Oregon Shakespeare Festival.)


    Note: In this daily series, we will take a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. First: Vietgone.

    Vietgone

    • Playwright: Qui Nguyen
    • Original music by Shane Rettig
    • Director: Seema Sueko, Deputy Artistic Director at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
    • Dates: Aug. 24-Sept. 30 (Opens Aug. 31)
    • Where: Ricketson Theatre
    • Genre: Irreverent 1970s road-trip comedy
    • At a glance: This rap-spitting, pop culture-crusted dramedy is an ode to the real-life (and somewhat made-up) courtship of the playwright's parents. Forced to leave their country during the height of the Vietnam War, two refugees find themselves at the same relocation camp in Arkansas – the land of Harleys, hot dogs and “howdy!” Before they find their way into each other’s arms, they’ll have to blaze a trail in their weird new world and leave behind the baggage they didn’t pack. This stage adventure hops across time and around the globe through the highs and lows of love.
    • About the playwright: Arkansas native Qui Nguyen is one of the American theater’s most innovative and lauded young playwrights. He describes himself as "Playwright. Screenwriter. Geek."  His savvy comedy is known for its innovative use of pop-culture, stage violence, puppetry and multimedia.
    • Says Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "The Denver Center has done a fantastic job of introducing new voices and new storytelling styles to this community. What Qui Nguyen is on to with Vietgone is a beautiful continuation of that thread, and I’m thrilled that it will kick off our 40th anniversary seaShe Kills Monsters. Aurora Fox. A&J Photographyson. Qui is undeniably a fresh, irreverent voice in the American theatre and the exploration of his parents' saucy romance through rap music and hilarious dialogue takes us on a journey through a very different America than most of us grew up with.”
    • What the critics have said: "The raucous comedy Vietgone is proof-positive that in certain realms of theater, we have moved firmly beyond political correctness." — Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
    • Fun facts: Nguyen is also the playwright behind She Kills Monsters, which addressed stereotypes and social issues through the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, which had a playful staging at the Aurora Fox in 2015. Vampire Cowboys, the New York  theatre company Nguyen co-founded, is often credited for being the pioneers of "geek theatre." It holds the unique distinction of being the first and currently only professional theatre company to be officially sponsored by the New York Comic Con.

    (Pictured above: Jenna Moll Reyes in 'She Kills Monsters' at the Aurora Fox. A&J Photography.)

    Qui Nguyen.


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: Your first look at a new 'Oklahoma!'

    by John Moore | Apr 02, 2018

    Chris Coleman Oklahoma


    Note: In this daily series, we will take a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. Today: Oklahoma!

    Oklahoma!

    • Written by: Richard Rodgers (music);  Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics). Based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs
    • Director: New DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman
    • Dates: Sept. 7-Oct. 14, 2018 (Opens Sept. 14)
    • Where: Stage Theatre
    • Genre: Classic American musical
    • OklahomaAt a glance: With a spring in their step and a song in their hearts, cowboys, farmers and traveling salesmen alike have chased their destinies to a land that promises everything they could hope for: Love, opportunity and a brighter future. The first collaboration by the legendary team of Rodgers and Hammerstein became a landmark musical for its rollicking music and stunning dance numbers, and this joyful presentation will solidify why it has stood the test of time.
    • The twist: Coleman will set the story in one of the 50 all-African-American towns that existed in the early days of the Oklahoma Territory. Coleman directed an all-black production of Oklahoma! once before, at Portland Center Stage in 2011. (Pictured: Marisha Wallace as Ado Annie and Jarran Muse as "Will,” courtesy Portland Center Stage.) 
    • Says Coleman: "I am honored to be making my Denver directorial debut with Oklahoma! This gorgeous musical is such a quintessential expression of what it means to be American. Oklahoma! is centered around a group of people on the verge of grabbing their piece of the American dream and incorporating themselves into the fabric of the whole nation. Experiencing that drive and sense of possibility expressed by a community we haven’t traditionally seen telling this story opens up new windows on what it means to be a Westerner, what it means to be an American and what it means to ‘stake your claim’ in the land."
    • More about the African-American variation: "Several years ago, when I first started thinking about doing this show, I came across a piece of information that blew me away: In 1907, the year before Oklahoma became a state, there were 50 all-black towns in the state, and a third of all cowboys were black. And that fact began to work its way into my imagination. I thought, 'What would it be like to see a community of black actors tell this extraordinary American story?' And I'm particularly excited to have black actors tell it, because when you hear, 'We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand' — that is an extraordinary sentiment to hear sung by that particular community in the moment we're living in today."
    • What the critics have said: Of the 1943 original, The New York Times' Lewis Nichols raved: "For years they have been saying the Theatre Guild is dead, words that obviously will have to be eaten with breakfast this morning." Of Coleman's 2011 all-black production in 2011, The Oregonian critic Marty Hughley wrote: "Coleman's version of the classic fully delivers on its entertaining promise while also subtly deepening the musical's underlying message about the nature of civil society and the distinctiveness of the American experience."
    • About the authors: Oklahoma! was the first musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and it set the standards and established the rules of musical theatre still being followed today.
    • Fun facts: The choreographer in Denver will be Dominique Kelley, a dancer in the film La La Land and the musical Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk ... Oklahoma! opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre 75 years ago Saturday, and the cast of the Denver-born musical Frozen marked the anniversary with a curtain-call singalong that you can watch at this YouTube link ... In 1967, an all-female production of Oklahoma! opened at the Takarazuka Theatre, Tokyo ... The original title for the musical was Away We Go! ... So why the exclamation point at the end of Oklahoma!? According to the book “The Hammersteins: a Musical Theatre Family,” Rodgers and Hammerstein included it as a subtle way to distance it from the grim associations the word had taken on a few years earlier because of Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."

    TC-web-Season-Ann-800x300
    (Artwork by  DCPA Senior Graphic Designer Kyle Malone.) 


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Video: Tommy's Andy Mientus, Lulu Fall sing for Denver Actors Fund

    by John Moore | Mar 27, 2018
    Video: Lulu Fall sings from The Who's Tommy:


    Video of Lulu Fall by Avery Anderson and John Moore.

    Stars of Denver Center's upcoming staging of The Who's iconic musical lend voices to Denver Actors Fund at Alamo

    Broadway stars Andy Mientus and Lulu Fall, who will play Tommy and the Acid Queen in the the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming stage production based on The Who’s seminal concept album “Tommy," performed acoustic songs from the musical on Monday at the Alamo Drafthouse, with proceeds benefiting The Denver Actors Fund.

    Fall sang "The Acid Queen," the song made famous by Tina Turner ion the film, and Mientus sang "Sensation," one of many songs made famous by Roger Daltrey. The live entertainment preceded a screening of Ken Russell’s cult-classic film adaptation on the 43rd anniversary of its London release. The evening's host was Steven J. Burge, currently a featured performer in the Denver Center's First Date.

    (Story continues after the video.)


    Video: Andy Mientus sings from The Who's Tommy:


    Video of Andy Mientus by Avery Anderson and John Moore.


    Mientus was featured on TV's Smash and The Flash and on Broadway played Hanschen in the Deaf West staging of Spring Awakening and Marius in Les Misérables. Fall appeared on Broadway in Hair and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. She also was featured in the Washington D.C. production of the groundbreaking musical Passing Strange, which just happens to be making its Denver-area premiere next month at the Aurora Fox.

    The event is part of The Denver Actors Fund's monthly film series at the Alamo Drafthouse located by Sloan’s Lake at 4255 W. Colfax Ave. The series features films that have a stage counterpart that is currently being performed by a Colorado theatre company. Each month, the rotating local theatre partner entertains the audience with a half hour of songs, trivia, conversation and ticket giveaways before the movie screening.  Next up on April 23 will be Glengarry Glen Ross with live entertainment by the Edge Theater Company of Lakewood. The entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m., with the film starting at 7. Choose your preferred seats now. Click on the "6:30" button to make your selection.

    Tommy tells the story of a boy who retreats into a world of darkness and silence after witnessing a traumatic incident and emerges as a rock-star pinball wizard. The DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming big-buzz stage adaptation, directed by Sam Buntrock (Frankenstein), performs in the Stage Theatre from April 20 through May 27. TICKET INFO

    The Denver Actors Fund is  a grassroots nonprofit that provides financial and situational relief when members of the Colorado theatre community are in situational medical need. To date, the Denver Actors Fund has distributed more than $214,000 in direct financial assistance and provided about 500 hours of volunteer service ranging from meals to transportation to housecleaning. MORE INFO

    Photo gallery from the Alamo Drafthouse:

    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'

    Photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's night at the Alamo Drafthouse. To see more downloadable photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore and Hope Grandon for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    More on Lulu Fall:
    Broadway: Hair, ensemble; Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, ensemble. National Tour: Hair, ensemble. Off-Broadway: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, ensemble; Pretty Filthy, Brown Sugar; Hadestown, Fate. Regional: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, ensemble (ART, Cambridge); August Rush, ensemble (Developmental Lab, NY); 15 Minutes, ensemble (Workshop, NYSAF); Annie Golden Bounty Hunter, Janessa (Workshop, NY); Smokey Joe’s Café, Brenda (Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany); Crowns, Swing (Arena Stage, Washington, DC); Passing Strange, ensemble (Studio Theatre, Washington, DC). TV: “Black Rest” (HBO). WEB SITE

    More on Andy Mientus:
    Theater: Spring Awakening (Deaf West Theater, Broadway, Ovation Nomination for Featured Actor), Les Miserables (Broadway, Broadway.com Award for Breakthrough Performance), Wicked (National Tour), Spring Awakening (National Tour directed by Michael Mayer), Bent (Mark Taper Forum, Directed by Moises Kaufman). Television: "Gone" (NBC Universal), "Smash" (NBC), "The Flash" (CW), "Chasing Life" (ABC Family), "Anger Management" (FX). Writing: the musical Burn All Night (American Repertory Theater) and the Backstagers book series (Abrams/Amulet publishing).

    Glengarry Glen Ross: Upcoming film screening

    • Monday, April 23
    • Alamo Drafthouse, 4255 W. Colfax Ave.
    • Live entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m., with the film starting at 7
    • Choose your preferred seats now

    The Who's Tommy at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances April 20-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
  • Tommy and the Acid Queen perform Monday for Denver Actors Fund

    by John Moore | Mar 23, 2018
    Tommy Denver Actors Fund Andy Mientus. Lulu Fall. Tommy Alamo


    Denver Center stars Andy Mientus and Lulu Fall will sing from Tommy before screening The Who's 1975 source film

    "See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me."

    OK, so … no touching! But not only can you see Ken Russell’s cult-classic film adaptation of The Who’s seminal concept album “Tommy” this Monday night (March 26) at the Alamo Drafthouse, you can be healed by a live sneak peek at the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming rock-tastic stage version. 

    The live pre-screening entertainment will feature performances by Broadway stars Andy Mientus and Lulu Fall. Yes, that’s both Tommy and the Acid Queen, in the flesh. (And Roger Daltrey and Tina Turner in their celluloid skin.)

    Mientus was featured on TV's Smash and The Flash and on Broadway played Hanschen in the Deaf West staging of Spring Awakening and Marius in Les Misérables. Fall appeared on Broadway in Hair and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. She also was featured in the Washington D.C. production of the groundbreaking musical Passing Strange, which just happens to be making its Denver-area premiere next month at the Aurora Fox.

    Choose your seat for Monday night's Alamo screening

    The event is part of The Denver Actors Fund's monthly film series at the Alamo Drafthouse located by Sloan’s Lake at 4255 W. Colfax Ave. The series features films that have a stage counterpart that is currently being performed by a Colorado theatre company. Each month, the rotating local theatre partner entertains the audience with a half hour of songs, trivia, conversation and ticket giveaways before the movie screening. The live entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m., with the film starting at 7. The evening's host is Steven J. Burge, currently a featured performer in the Denver Center's First Date.

    Tommy tells the story of a boy who retreats into a world of darkness and silence after witnessing a traumatic incident and emerges as a rock-star pinball wizard. The DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming big-buzz stage adaptation, directed by Sam Buntrock (Frankenstein), performs in the Stage Theatre from April 20 through May 27. TICKET INFO

    The Denver Actors Fund receives 50 percent of Monday's ticket sales. The 4-year-old fund is a grassroots nonprofit that provides financial and situational relief when members of the Colorado theatre community are in situational medical need. To date, the Denver Actors Fund has distributed more than $214,000 in direct financial assistance and provided about 500 hours of volunteer service ranging from meals to transportation to housecleaning. MORE INFO

    Choose your preferred seats now. Click on the "6:30" button to make your selection.

    See the vintage Tommy trailer:


    “In 1968, a revolutionary piece of entertainment was written and played for the first time. It was the creation of an extraordinary British composer, Peter Townshend. It was performed by an incredible music group called The Who. It was titled Tommy. The unusual theme of the story immediately captured the imagination of an entire generation …”

    Note: The Alamo offers a full dinner menu and bar service. Children 6 and older are welcome with an adult.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Meet Lulu Fall:
    Broadway: Hair, ensemble; Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, ensemble. National Tour: Hair, ensemble. Off-Broadway: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, ensemble; Pretty Filthy, Brown Sugar; Hadestown, Fate. Regional: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, ensemble (ART, Cambridge); August Rush, ensemble (Developmental Lab, NY); 15 Minutes, ensemble (Workshop, NYSAF); Annie Golden Bounty Hunter, Janessa (Workshop, NY); Smokey Joe’s Café, Brenda (Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany); Crowns, Swing (Arena Stage, Washington, DC); Passing Strange, ensemble (Studio Theatre, Washington, DC). TV: “Black Rest” (HBO). WEB SITE

    Meet Andy Mientus:
    Theater: Spring Awakening (Deaf West Theater, Broadway, Ovation Nomination for Featured Actor), Les Miserables (Broadway, Broadway.com Award for Breakthrough Performance), Wicked (National Tour), Spring Awakening (National Tour directed by Michael Mayer), Bent (Mark Taper Forum, Directed by Moises Kaufman). Television: "Gone" (NBC Universal), "Smash" (NBC), "The Flash" (CW), "Chasing Life" (ABC Family), "Anger Management" (FX). Writing: the musical Burn All Night (American Repertory Theater) and the Backstagers book series (Abrams/Amulet publishing).

    Tommy: Film screening

    • Monday, March 26
    • Alamo Drafthouse, 4255 W. Colfax Ave.
    • Live entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m., with the film starting at 7
    • Choose your preferred seats now

    The Who's Tommy at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Apr 20-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:


    Video highlights of The Denver Actors Fund's monthly film series:

  • Photos, cast list: 'Native Gardens' draws line in the soil

    by John Moore | Mar 12, 2018
    Making of 'Native Gardens'Above: Our full photo gallery from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens,' starting with last week's first rehearsal. To see more, click on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter


    Karen Zacarías' popular comedy takes a lighter approach to the concept of a border war — with your next-door neighbor

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    "Who here has a neighbor?" Director Lisa Portes asked the cast, creatives, ambassadors and staff gathered for a festive first day of rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's upcoming production of Native Gardens. And when she further queried, "Who here has had a dispute with a neighbor?" and, "How many of those disputes have had to do with land or noise?" — not many of the many raised hands fell.   

    Karen Zacarías' celebrated play is the story of a young Latino couple that moves into a fixer-upper next to an older couple with a beautifully kept garden. All goes well until the aristocratic young Chileans discover their property line actually extends about 2 feet over their neighbors' existing flowerbed.

    "We all hope we get along with our neighbors," Portes said. But where there is a property line, there tends to be a line in the sand.

    Native Gardens is a comedy, "but it's a sneaky comedy," Portes added, "because suddenly there is this border dispute, and within that there is all kinds of conflict  — generational, ethnic, gender and class. And eventually these two couples really have to contend with one another."

    Portes, who primarily tackles new plays and musicals, serves on the board of Theatre Communications Group, heads the MFA directing program at DePaul University and has directed at dozens of theatres around the country. Her cast includes Broadway veterans Jordan Baker (The Normal Heart) and John Ahlin (Journey’s End), as well as Mariana Fernández, who two years ago starred the DCPA Theatre Company's FADE.

    'Native Gardens' has its first performance April 6 in the Space Theatre. Here are five fun facts we learned at first rehearsal:

    Lisa Portes quote
    Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    NUMBER 1

    The world goes round. Although Zacarías' play has been produced around the country since 2016, Portes is calling this the play's "world premiere production in the round." The Space is a five-sided theatre with the stage in the middle. In every previous staging, the audience has watched the story in a traditional theatre setting with an invisible fourth wall separating them from the actors on the stage. "That means the audience is examining this dispute from a safe distance," Portes said. "But in this production, the stage floor is the actual garden, and the fence separating the two houses runs right through the middle of the stage. And so depending on where your seat is, you will be sitting on one side of the fence or the other. That means you are a part of this dispute. And we're interested to see how that physical relationship you have with one side or the other plays out in your terms of your allegiances."  

    NUMBER 2RAQUEL BARRETO Expect the unexpected. If Costume Designer Raquel Barreto has one wish for how the audience feels when they walk into the Space Theatre, she said, "It's they don't encounter a preconceived set of characters" when the play begins. Meaning they should not be so easily pegged based on their appearance — or your presupposition. "This is a play that is as much about about cultural and ethnic perceptions as it is about generational differences, and so I would love it if people's expectations of having a Latino or a foolish older American neighbor are not met," she said. "We have a chance to present the audience with characters who are funny but at the same time have some layers to them. I may strongly disagree with my neighbor's politics and still love the scarf that she is wearing." 

    NUMBER 3 Is that a typo? Questions about the recent rise of the term “Latinx” (pronounced “Latin X”) have come up on a regular basis all season, and they came up again on the first day of rehearsal. They even come up in  Zacarías' script. It's not a term the older white couple in the story have ever heard of — and they are not alone. So, a refresher: Latinx has become widely embraced among scholars, community leaders and journalists as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina.  According to The Huffington Post, Latinx is part of a “linguistic revolution” that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. In addition to men and women from all racial backgrounds, Latinx also makes room for people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.

    Just Like Us makes the political personal ... and entertaining

    NUMBER 4Speaking of ... Zacarías, who also wrote the DCPA Theatre Company's Just Like Us in 2014, and Portes were among the “DC-8” who started a national movement called The Latinx Theatre Commons in 2012 to amplify the visibility of Latinx theatre in the United States. Since then, Portes has directed the world premiere of Antoinette Nwandu’s Breach, a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate in Chicago, as well as an all-Latinx version of The Glass Menagerie for Cal Shakes in northern California.  Zacarias last month launched a high-profile staging for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival called Destiny of Desire, a subversive homage to telenovelas, which she calls “one of the most exported forms of entertainment in the world.”

    NUMBER 5Small world. Next door to the Space Theatre, Off-Center is preparing to stage  This is Modern Art in The Jones Theatre. That story explores an  incident when a graffiti crew created a massive tag on the outside of the Art Institute of Chicago’s new, multimillion-dollar Modern Wing. The world-premiere of the play was staged at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2015, and it went down as among the most controversial stagings of the past decade. And it debuted under the direction of none other than .... Lisa Portes. "Idris is a wildly imaginative thinker,” Portes said of co-writer (and Off-Center director) Idris Goodwin. " He knows the necessity of traditional structure well, and he also pushes against it in order to get to something else. “This is Modern Art follows a pretty traditional structure, but its content is quite subversive.” READ MORE

    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.

    Native Gardens: Cast and creatives
    • Written by Karen Zacarías 
    • Directed by Lisa Portes
    • Scenic Designer: Lisa M. Orzolek
    • Costume Designer: Raquel Barreto
    • Lighting Designer: Charles R. MacLeod
    • Sound Designer: Rick Sims
    • Dramaturg: Douglas Langworthy
    • Stage manager: Heidi Echtenkamp
    • Kailey Buttrick: Assistant Stage Manager  

    Cast:

    • John Ahlin (Broadway’s Tony-Award winning revival of Journey’s End) as Frank Butley
    • Jordan Baker (Broadway’s Suddenly, Last Summer, The Normal Heart) as Virginia Butley
    • Mariana Fernández (DCPA’s FADE) as Tania Del Valle
    • Ryan Garbayo (Red Bull Theater’s The Government Inspector Off-Broadway) as Pablo Del Valle.
    • Anthony V. Haro (University of Northern Colorado Opera’s La Cenerentola), Ensemble
    • Brandon Lopez (Lucent Performing Arts’ American Idiot), Ensemble
    • Gustavo Marquez (Colorado Shakespeare Education’s Comedy of Errors), Ensemble
    • Gia Valverde (Su Teatro’s Enrique’s Journey), Ensemble
    Native Gardens: Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.
    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances April 6-May 6
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

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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.

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