• Robert O'Hara: Can 'Macbeth' transcend gender?

    by John Moore | Oct 04, 2017

    In the video above, 'Macbeth' director Robert O’Hara talks about the setting for his re-imagined Macbeth, why making his players warlocks necessitated an all-male cast and more. The play continues in the Space Theatre through Oct. 29. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Shakespeare needs to be alive, Macbeth director says,
    'Or you are just blowing wind into a corpse.' 

    John Moore: There is a conflict in the American theatre when it comes to Shakespeare. Traditionalists think of Shakespeare as a sacred cow and that it should be presented exactly as written. But when you want to attract younger generations to Shakespeare, is it no longer enough to let his words speak for themselves?

    Robert O’Hara: It’s still live theatre, and that means it needs to be alive. If you are just blowing wind into a corpse, then you just have the walking dead. I think you need to give it life, and the life comes from the people who are in the room right now.  

    John Moore: How does that affect your approach to Macbeth?

    Robert O’Hara: I don't want to go into a theatre and see a museum piece. I think there is an elitist quality to Shakespeare in this country, and I don't believe in elite theatre. Theatre is already elite, and I don't want to come in and put another level of elitism on top of that. So I tried to make this production as honest as possible, and to speak for now.

    John Moore: As a director, this is your first production of a Shakespeare play. Has that been a matter of preference or opportunity?

    Robert O’Hara: I have not been afforded opportunities to direct Shakespeare. African-Americans are not usually in the room directing Shakespeare. So when I was asked to direct Macbeth by the Denver Center, I was very intrigued. I thought, ‘Now I can have a conversation I have been waiting to have for a long time.'

    John Moore: Why have you not been afforded that opportunity before now?

    Robert O'Hara Quote MacbethRobert O’Hara: There is a Catch-22 in the American theatre. I am mostly considered a playwright and a director of new plays, right? So I don't usually get offered to direct classical work. The Catch-22 is that you won't get offered classical work because you haven't done classical work. But if you are not getting the opportunity to direct classical work, when can you ever do it? I think we categorize artists of color, because white people are allowed to do everything. They can do black plays, Latino plays, classical plays, new plays, whatever. But somehow I am only supposed to do one certain type of play. My entire career has been working against that. There are far more white people directing Shakespeare than people of color in this country. That's something important to acknowledge and be transparent about. I know that I am in Denver doing Macbeth and that this is the first time anyone has ever asked me to do Shakespeare. That is significant for me in my career, but I'm sure it is significant for the theatre community here, too.

    John Moore: How did that happen?

    Robert O’Hara: (DCPA Associate Artistic Director) Nataki Garrett called and asked if I would be interested in coming to Denver. It was sort of a fishing expedition. She was interested in a play I had done at Steppenwolf in Chicago, and I said, 'Well, I'm not so sure I want to go all the way to Denver to do something I have already done. What else do you have?' And she said they were thinking about Macbeth and a couple of other plays. And I was like, "Hmmm ... Macbeth! And that sparked a conversation that just kept going. I threw the book at her, because I don't want to go to any theatre just to be told, 'Don't be who you are, because this is Shakespeare!' So I said to Nataki, 'Can I do this and this and that?' And she kept saying yes.

    John Moore: What do you bring to Shakespeare that a white director might not?

    Robert O’Hara: What Shakespeare means to me is going to be different from what Shakespeare means to a lot of other people, just based on who I am. James Baldwin once said that when African-Americans speak Shakespeare, it changes the meaning of Shakespeare’s words. The language becomes universal when it is spoken out loud by people who were never supposed to speak it.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: How is this Robert O'Hara's Macbeth?

    Robert O'Hara: It’s not. It's Shakespeare's Macbeth. Robert O'Hara is simply interpreting it. What I love is that Shakespeare allows you the interpretation. There is nothing that I am going to do that is going to destroy Macbeth. I don't have that power. But I think this production allows me the freedom to actually be fully who I am.
    John Moore: So what is your concept?

    Robert O'Hara: The concept comes out of a simple question that I asked myself when I was reading the play, and it sounds crazy. But I thought, 'Why are you talking to witches?' In what society does one see three witches in a field and he just goes up to them and is like, 'Hey, what's up?' If I see three witches, I am going to run, jump out the window, race, scream, pray, whatever. But these guys are just rolling up on witches, and they don't seem to be afraid of them. That in itself tells me that this is a play that is fantastical. That is has the imagination at its core. This is a world where people and witches can interact freely. And that started me thinking about the way we deal with otherness in our culture. At the same time we denigrate 'the other,' we also praise them. We go to the shaman or the witch doctor or the medicine man to help us root out the evils in our lives - and then we will burn them at the stake. I have always thought the witches are unfairly blamed for what Macbeth does. And so I thought, what if we told this story from the witches' perspective? What if a bunch of witches got together and said, ‘Why don't we do the story of Macbeth?’ They don’t change the story. The idea is that these characters are being played by people with supernatural powers. By people who are actually talked about in the play.

    John Moore: And in fact, you set the play in the Pit of Acheron.

    Robert O'Hara: Yes, and the Pit of Acheron is an actual setting in Shakespeare’s play. The warlocks take Macbeth there, and that is where our play takes place.

    John Moore: How is this relatable to today?

    Robert O'Hara: They have just built an arts complex on the 9/11 memorial site at the World Trade Center. And I am assuming there will be plays staged there that have something to do with the 9/11 tragedy. And I think to and set this play at a place that is actually in the story gives it a different life.

    John Moore: What about the idea to make it an all-male cast?

    Robert O'Hara: That comes from the Banquo line, when he says something like, ‘You should be women, but you have beards.’ When I read that, I was like, 'What if they are men?' Of course, all of Shakespeare's plays were originally performed by men. I wanted to explore what that means. 

    John Moore: Lady Macbeth has been called the most bloodthirsty character in all of Shakespeare – including her husband. Does that fact that she was created by a man in patriarchal Jacobean times tell us more about her – or about Shakespeare? 

    Robert O’Hara: Here we have this legendary character of Lady Macbeth, and she is demonized and deified and everything in between. But it's essentially a character written by a man and at the time played by a man, and most of the audiences then were probably men. It’s exciting for me to put a bunch of men in a room and we deal with that dynamic. It's exciting to explore how one feels about that.

    John Moore: How is she presented?

    Robert O’Hara: We are not making Lady Macbeth a man, we are just having her be played by a man. So we’re not doing a drag show.

    (Story continues below the photo)

     Macbeth Adam Poss. Photo by Adams Viscom


    John Moore: And what is your take on her now?

    Robert O’Hara: Look, she doesn't even have a name. Her name is ‘Lady.’ Right there, she is a symbol for something. I feel like she is just as important as the title character of Macbeth. That in fact you can't have Macbeth the play without Lady Macbeth. To me, they are one and the same. When I see Lady M on stage, they usually remove all femininity from her. She is basically a masculine, evil, unsexed woman. But I think she is no more evil than anyone else in the play. Remember the witches don't actually tell Macbeth to kill anyone. They just say, 'You are going to be the king.' And then he and his wife start reaching for daggers. What women goes, ‘I would dash the brains of this kid?' That sounds crazy. Especially a woman who has lost a child. And yet she is saying this to encourage Macbeth to kill someone.

    John Moore: What is Shakespeare's complicity in all of this?

    Robert O’Hara: There are no examples that I know of in Shakespeare of a man pretending to be a woman - as a serious plot point. There are tons of examples of a woman pretending to be a man, and everyone accepts it. But where is the play where a man pretends to be a woman, and everyone in the world of the play accepts it? That’s because nobody wants to be a woman in this sexist society. Women should want to be men. That says something about the society these plays are written in. 
     
    John Moore: Are you worried about an anti-feminist response by removing the female voice?

    Robert O’Hara: I contend that there was never a woman's voice in Macbeth. I want to explore the idea of what happens when you get a bunch of men in a locker-room setting, if you will, they begin to deal with a heterosexual relationship. What does that reveal? I am less interested in what happens if you remove the female voice because I am not doing a play in which there ever was a female voice. I am doing a play in which there was a male voice inside of a female character who acts, for the most part, as if she were a man. But just because I am doing men with all men does not mean that I’m not interested in women. I want to see what 17 male actors will make of some of the places in the play that are very vulnerable and emotional - on top of all the violence. Because violence is easy. But can we have a relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, and even between Macbeth and Banquo, that transcends gender?

    John Moore: Is there a statement in all of that?

    Robert O’Hara: I'm not really interested in making statements. I am really interested in asking questions about our value systems, and what we accept in male behavior that we don't accept in other behaviors. I am interested in the nature of being complicit in a society, because Macbeth gets away with a lot of stuff before they kill him. I am interested in exploring the idea of reaping what you sow. Because Macbeth's death is going to be brutal. I think about a dictator like Muammar Gaddafi and how he was killed and dragged through the streets. The message is: When you radicalize a group of people, be careful because they will turn on you. That is central to what I am exploring. When you do a play that has an act of violence as its central core, that dagger, if you will, may come and slit your own throat.

    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.

    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage

    Tattoos, video and opening-night Macbeth photos
    Video, photos: Your first look at Macbeth
    Perspectives: Macbeth director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'
    Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening


    Video: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's Macbeth:



    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

  • Guns and broses: Tattoos, video and opening-night 'Macbeth' photos

    by John Moore | Sep 28, 2017
    Macbeth: Opening-night photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

     

    The photos above are from Opening Night of the DCPA Theatre Company's production of Macbeth on Sept. 22. To see more photos in the gallery above, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears.

    The evening marked the official reopening of the renovated Space Theatre and was capped by a party in the Seawell Ballroom. Backstage and party photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Photo-booth photos by Bamboo Booth.

    Making of Macbeth video: Actor Skyler Gallun's tattoo application:


    This short, fun time-lapse video shows DCPA Theatre Company makeup artists Taylor Malott and Robin Appleton applying opening-night tattoos to actor Skyler Gallun, who plays poor Donalbain, the hunted son of murdered King Duncan, in Shakespeare's bloody tragedy.

    Some of the 17 actors are naturally tattooed, but the artists say those who are having theirs applied can have them last anywhere from a day to almost a week. Gallun says he has been having his reapplied about every three days. Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Macbeth. Nataki Garrett

    Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett addresses those gathered after the Opening Night performance of 'Macbeth,' with some cast members behind her. Photo by John Moore.


    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Video, photos: Your first look at Macbeth
    Perspectives: Macbeth director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'
    Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening


    Video: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's Macbeth:



    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

  • Video, photos: Your first look at DCPA's 'Macbeth'

    by John Moore | Sep 20, 2017



    Without changing a word of Shakespeare's text, DCPA Theatre Company Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into his raw reimagining of Macbeth, which will mark the grand reopening of the in-the-round Space Theatre. Video above by DCPA
    Video Producer David Lenk. 

    Production photos:

    Macbeth
    To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by Adams VisCom.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Macbeth: Ticket information
    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    DCPA Macbeth. Adams Viscom. Scenie Design by Jason Sherwood.
    DCPA Theatre Company's 'Macbeth.' Scenic Design by Jason Sherwood. Photo by Adams Viscom.

    Macbeth
    : Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage

    Perspectives: Macbeth director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'
    Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening

    Making of Macbeth: Backstage photo gallery

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the making of Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Perspectives: 'Macbeth' director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'

    by John Moore | Sep 19, 2017
    Perspectives Macbeth. Robert O'Hara. Steven Cole Hughes'Perspectives' is a series of free panel discussions held just before the first public performance of each DCPA Theatre Company staging. The 'Macbeth' panel included director Robert O'Hara and actor Steven Cole Hughes, above, as well as actors Alec Hynes and Kim Fischer (pictured below right). The moderator was Literary Director Doug Langworthy. The next 'Perspectives' will be held before the first preview of 'Smart People' at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, in the Jones Theatre. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    'The Curse,' the costumes and the king obsessed with witches are all fair game at season's first Perspectives

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Macbeth An audience member before Friday’s first performance of Macbeth wanted to know: Is “The Curse” real?

    He was talking about the most famous – and famously respected – superstition in all of theatre: Say the word "Macbeth" inside a theatre, and you invite disaster. Better to say “The Scottish Play” or “Mackers.” Shakespeare’s play gets its evil reputation in part because of the witches in the story, and of course the legendary tales of misfortune that have been associated with hundreds of Macbeth stagings going back to 1606.

    Macbeth. Perspectives. Photo by John Moore. Robert O’Hara, who is directing Macbeth for the DCPA Theatre Company, says so far – knock on wood! – there have been no incidents attributable to black magic lurking under the brand-new Space Theatre floorboards. But he said things got super weird before rehearsals even began.

    O'Hara invited the actors playing Macbeth and Lady M (Ariel Shafir and Adam Poss) to his home a few months ago to talk about the play. As they were diving into the play, O’Hara looked outside and noticed an inexplicable pack of wild kittens loitering underneath his tree. He says they didn’t live in the neighborhood, and they all disappeared by the next morning. But that day, Poss’ simple plane trip home from Cincinnati to Chicago ended up taking nearly 24 hours to complete.

    Weird, sisters.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Here are five more things we learned about 'Macbeth at Perspactives:

    Macbeth set design by Jason SherwoodTrue blue: NUMBER 1 Macbeth is O’Hara’s first Shakespeare production as a director. And while he brings a different sensibility to this staging that is evident from costumes to clothing to music to movement, he’s not rewriting a word of Shakespeare’s language. “Nothing you see will defame Shakespeare,” O'Hara said. “I didn't come here to do Shakespeare in order to not do Shakespeare. I am a playwright, too, so if I wanted to do an adaptation of Shakespeare, I would have just written my own play. But at the same time, I don't want the audience to see a museum piece. I want them to see something that shows how elastic Shakespeare is. I am not interested in how Shakespeare is ‘supposed’ to be done. I am interested in how I meet Shakespeare’s language today.”

    (Pictured above and right: A look at the 'Macbeth' set design by Jason Sherwood.)

    NUMBER 2About those costumes: "We don't wear many. You're welcome,” actor Steven Cole Hughes said to laughs. O’Hara said it makes perfect sense for warlocks to live their lives more unencumbered by inhibition (and clothing) than humans. “Our show is essentially warlocks putting on a play, and these warlocks have a different sense of their bodies. They have a different sense of nakedness,” O’Hara said. "But when it comes time for the warlocks to put on Shakespeare’s play, they add some Jacobean clothing. They’re costumes. But underneath, they are still who they are.”

    NUMBER 3 What the Hecate? There is a character in the play who usually gets cut in contemporary stagings. Her name is Hecate, queen of the witches. Hecate says: 'Bring Macbeth to the Pit of Acheron,” and that’s where O’Hara has chosen to set this production. It’s years after the real-life story of Macbeth, the witches are all male warlocks, and they are performing the play as a kind of historical ritual. And here, we will meet Hecate. “Robert did some research that said Hecate is a three-headed witch, so there are three of us actors paying her,” said Hughes. “We had the freedom to create both how we move and talk as a trio. Hecate has a monologue, and we split it up between the three of us." 

    NUMBER 4And as for the music: “It's going to start loud, and get louder,” says Hughes. O’Hara only asks of his audience what he asked of his cast on the first day of rehearsal: "Invest in yes," he said. And if you do, he added, "you will be rewarded at the end.” The play is performed as a ritual not unlike the Catholic Church’s Stations of the Cross. And each ritual is accompanied its own music, movement and lighting scheme. These are transitions that act as a bridge between the scenes that Shakespeare wrote, and the hybrid world these warlocks inhabit at the Pit of Acheron.

    NUMBER 5Back to those those witches: Scotland’s King James I – yes, namesake of the King James Bible – was obsessed with the subject of witchcraft. There were 247 witch trials during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and King James, and he was a frequent instigator of them. Belief in witches was common at the time. James, who became the first king of both England and Scotland in 1603, even wrote a book on supernatural creatures and demons. James was also a big fan of live theatre, and he hired Shakespeare to write plays for him. The Bard wrote Macbeth specifically to please King James. In the play, quintessential good-guy Banquo is meant to represent James. And to please His Majesty, Shakespeare inserted more biblical imagery than in any of his other plays.

    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.

    Macbeth. Perspectives. Photo by John Moore.

    Actors Steven Cole Hughes and Kim Fischer demonstrate some of the choreography in 'Macbeth.' Photo by John Moore.


    Macbeth: Ticket information
    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening

    Making of Macbeth: Full photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the making of Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth

    by John Moore | Sep 17, 2017

    'I think a lot of women (who play Lady Macbeth) have to bring this masculine energy to it. But because I am a man with that masculine energy (my job is) to find what that feminine energy is," Adam Poss says of his role as Lady M  for the DCPA Theatre Company. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    'When you see someone like me playing Macbeth, already you are getting a different energy, look and feel.'


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    In one way, Director Robert O’Hara is telling the tale of Macbeth just as Shakespeare did — with an all-male cast. Not that anyone will mistake O’Hara’s staging with anything resembling Shakespeare as it was presented in Jacobean times.

    O'Hara is telling the tale for the DCPA Theatre Company from the point of view of a coven of shamanic warlocks. In his world, these warlocks are getting together years after the actual story and are now performing Macbeth as a kind of passion play. So the storytellers are all necessarily male.

    Adam Poss. Macbeth. But Adam Poss, the acclaimed Chicago actor playing Lady Macbeth, believes the female voice will come through loud and clear through this unusual telling, which he says is at once both historic and futuristic. "It's a great combination of old and new, and we're going to freak people out a little bit," he said with a laugh. 

    The strongest women of the time were polar opposites and deadly rivals, Poss said: "You have Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots and they both represented very different ideas of who women were. Queen Elizabeth was the virgin and Mary Queen of Scots was  bloodthirsty." Lady Macbeth was more of the latter, clawing her way to a place of power in the only way a woman could: Through her husband. "She could not be out there fighting, and taking on a kinship on her own," Poss said, "But she can make  things happen in her own way behind the scenes."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Poss said it will be both useful and relevant for a contemporary audience to see the story with women and witches who have facial hair. 

    "I think as we move forward, things are less binary in terms of what it means to be a man and a woman," he said. "Just because this is a company of men does not mean that there cannot be intimacy between men.

    "At its heart, yes, Macbeth  is a play about ambition and being bloodthirsty and taking people on to achieve what you want. But it’s also about a marriage, and a husband and wife doesn’t necessarily have to be a man and a woman. There can be partnerships between men that have love and care and tenderness but also violence and aggression and manipulation. That’s just human."  

    Adam Poss. Macbeth. Photo by John Moore.
    Adam Poss with his castmates at the first rehearsal for 'Macbeth.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter


    Adam Poss: At a glance

    At the Denver Center: Debut. Other regional credits: Macbeth (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville), 2666, Teddy Ferrara, A Christmas Carol, The Magic Play, The Solid Sand Below (Goodman Theatre), Lot’s Wife (Kansas City Rep), The North Pool, The Lake Effect (TheatreWorks, Palo Alto) Other credits: 1984, Animals Out of Paper (Steppenwolf Theatre), The History Boys (Studio Theatre, D.C.). Oedipus el Rey, Queen (Victory Gardens Theater); The Lake Effect, Scorched (Silk Road Rising); The Beats (16th Street Theater). Television: Shameless, Empire, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Crisis, The Chicago Code, The Mob Doctor. Film: The Middle Distance, The Drunk, The King of URLS, Speed Dating.

    Macbeth: Ticket information
    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening

    Making of Macbeth: Full photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the making of Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video: Ariel Shafir on the new warrior face of 'Macbeth'

    by John Moore | Sep 12, 2017

    'We're getting a taste of where theatre has evolved, and Robert O'Hara is at the finger's edge of all this," Ariel Shafir says of his 'Macbeth' director. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    'When you see someone like me playing Macbeth, already you are getting a different energy, look and feel.'


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Actor Ariel Shafir is well aware that when most people imagine the face of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, they likely conjure a face like, say, Patrick Stewart’s or Kelsey Grammer’s as the great killer Scot. “It’s usually some 60-year-old, very WASPy looking guy,” Shafir said with a laugh.

    Ariel ShafirBut nevertheless, the decidedly younger Shafir is preparing to play the iconic embodiment of bloodthirsty ambition for the DCPA Theatre Company. And he thinks he’s just right for the role.

    “Macbeth is not one of these old generals in some back room,” Shafir said. “He’s on the battlefield. He’s the greatest warrior they have. So when you see someone like me playing Macbeth, you can see how far we are veering from the typical playbook. Already you are getting a different energy, a different look, a different feel for Macbeth.”

    Director Robert O’Hara is telling the tale of Macbeth from the point of view of a coven of shamanic warlocks. In his world, these warlocks are getting together years later and performing the story of Macbeth as a kind of passion play.

    There are purists who believe Shakespeare should not be tinkered with, even in concept. Shafir challenges that notion. “It is important to note that this is going to be the exact text Shakespeare wrote,” Shafir said. “But instead of relying on the template of productions past, I think Robert is actually probing deeper into the script and striking much closer to the heart of Shakespeare’s actual play.

     “We are delving into some of the darkest shadows of human psychology, and I think I directors sometimes tiptoe that line. But not Robert. There are so many things in our production that many others don’t ever deal with. There are just so many things about our own shadow selves that we need to embrace, and I think we do.”

    Ariel Shafir. Photo by John MooreThere’s a reason Macbeth remains a popular story after 400 years. Shafir says it’s the same reason we love Halloween and horror movies.

    “What is this darkness in ourselves that we need to embrace in the nighttime so that we can go out and be productive in the daylight hours?” he said.

    “This play is reaching forward in time and, at the same time, reaching back. There will be an interesting tension between the classic Jacobean style, while also having this completely futuristic feel as well. There are so many parts of this play that I think will be illuminated for the first time for people.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Ariel Shafir: At a glance
    At the Denver Center: Debut. Other regional credits: John Proctor in The Crucible (Playmakers Rep), Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare), Axel Fersen in Marie Antoinette (Steppenwolf), Uzi in Captors (Huntington), John in A Life in the Theater (Alliance), among many others including most recently Isaac in the China Tour of Disgraced. TV/Film: "Orange is the New Black," "30 Rock," "Army Wives," I Love You ... but I Lied," "M'Larky," "What Happens in Vegas" "Bride Wars" "Don Peyote," "What Happens Next," "Hysterical Psycho." Winner of a Suzi Bass Award, Jeff Award and Barrymore Award.

    Macbeth: Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.
    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening

    Making of Macbeth: Full photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the making of Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • The masculinity of 'Macbeth'

    by John Moore | Sep 05, 2017

    Macbeth. Thaddeus Fitzpatrick. Photo by John Moore.


    'You should be women. And yet your beards forbid me to
    interpret that you are so.'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The words above come out the mouth of Banquo, Macbeth’s power-hungry frenemy. And the first time Director Robert O’Hara came across them, they stuck in his head like courage to a sticking post.

    “That line is Banquo telling the witches they don’t look like women because they have beards,” said O’Hara, “And right then I was like, ‘Well maybe they're not women. Maybe they are men'!”

    That inherent gender contradiction fueled O’Hara’s vision for the DCPA Theatre Company’s season-opening production of Macbeth, which promises to confront audiences with a sexy, physical vision of Shakespeare the likes of which they likely have never seen before. 

    “This is a world where you can roll up on some witches, and it doesn’t send you off running for the hills screaming at the top of your lungs?” O’Hara said. “Not only that, but they tell you you’re going to be king, and you just go right off and start killing folks. That, to me, is crazy. The witches don’t tell Macbeth to go kill Duncan. They just tell Macbeth he will be king someday. But he couldn’t wait a few days to start killing? Who knows, Macbeth? Maybe the king will choke to death on a chicken bone or something.” 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    O’Hara is presenting Macbeth just as Shakespeare did — with an all-male cast. Not that anyone will mistake O’Hara’s staging with anything resembling Shakespeare as it was presented in Jacobean times. 

    “The reason Shakespeare did not use women in his plays wasn’t because it was illegal for women to be on stage,” O’Hara said. “He did it because England was a sexist and misogynistic society that devalued the female.” That’s why, O’Hara says, the bloodthirsty Lady Macbeth must be viewed through the male perspective that created her.  

    “Can you imagine what women must have felt hearing about all these stories with female characters that were written and performed by men? The very nature of the Jacobean patriarchal society would color how characters like Lady Macbeth came about and were presented on the stage.” 

    Masculinity pervades Shakespeare’s text without any help from O’Hara. With the exception of the witches, Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff are the only significant female characters in the entire story to begin with. “Lady Macbeth says all this stuff about ‘Unsex me,’ and, ‘If you were a man you’d be more of a man’ by killing the king, as she’s egging her husband on,” O’Hara said.

    (Story continues after the photo.)

    Macbeth Robert O'Hara


    O’Hara was interested by what he calls the locker-room mentality, then and now. “I thought, ‘What happens when a bunch of men get together and decide to present this story?' And so O’Hara’s tale takes place in a world where it is warlocks, not witches, who “double, double, toil and trouble.”  

    In O’Hara’s world, getting together and performing the story of Macbeth as a kind of passion play is a ritual of these warlocks that has gone on for centuries. 

    In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, The Pit of Acheron is a swamp near Macbeth's castle where the witches are ordered to bring Macbeth. In O’Hara’s production, this pit becomes the setting of his entire play.

    “As someone living in New York City, it’s interesting to me that millions of people come to pay their respect to the fallen of 9/11 at the World Trade Center. They have built a performance complex right there, and inevitably there will be performances there that deal with 9/11. And that made me think, ‘What if my production in some odd way was the warlocks paying their respect to the fallen in the Macbeth story, which is a real story that took place hundreds of years before?’

    “These warlocks are forever linked to their ancestors, and not in a good way. They have been blamed for the actions of Macbeth for centuries. So, what if this is them giving those ancient witches a renewed voice, through this ritual?”

    This concept not only gives the audience the opportunity to see women characters played by men just as they were in Shakespeare’s time, but also to consider the inevitable patriarchal consequences. 

    What will an all-male Macbeth do to the story?

    “I hope it will do exactly what it probably did when it was first performed,” O’Hara said. “I hope it gives some insight into the world we are living in today.”


    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.
    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Macbeth at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening


    Making of Macbeth: Full photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the making of Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined 'Macbeth'

    by John Moore | Aug 28, 2017

    Rehearsal for Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth.' Photo by John Moore. Rehearsal for Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth.' Photo by John Moore.


    Robert O'Hara's story is told from the point of view of a warlock coven that gathers to recreate the tale of Macbeth.

    The DCPA Theatre Company has announced the full cast and creative team for Robert O’Hara’s raw and reimagined take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which opens the company's 38th season with an all-male cast on Sept. 22.

    In preparing for the production, the director was struck by Banquo’s line referencing the witches: “You should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so.”

    “That inherent contradiction stuck in my head,” O’Hara said. “And right then I was like, ‘Well maybe they're not women. Maybe they are men.’ ” That opened the door for a concept told from the point of view of the supernatural: Specifically, a warlock coven that gathers to recreate the tale of Macbeth.

    “People have asked me, ‘What will an all-male Macbeth do to the story?’” O'Hara said. “I tell them, ‘I hope it will do exactly what Shakespeare’s work should always do – give some insight into the world in which we are living today.’ ”

    Macbeth castFrom left: Colorado natives Skyler Gallun (Donalbain) and Gareth Saxe (Duncan), with Lady M (Adam Poss) and Macbeth (Ariel Shafir).

    The production will feature, in alphabetical order:

    • Rob Fenton (Malcolm/Ensemble)
    • Kim Fischer (Second Warlock/Ensemble)
    • Thaddeus Fitzpatrick (Third Warlock/Ensemble)
    • Keith D. Gallagher (Seyton/Ensemble)
    • Skyler Gallun (Donalbain/Ensemble)
    • Joel Reuben Ganz (Macduff/Ensemble)
    • Joe Goldammer (First Warlock/Ensemble)
    • Steven Cole Hughes (Doctor of the Psychic/Ensemble)
    • Alec Hynes (Banquo/Ensemble)
    • Erik Kochenberger (Hecate Two/Ensemble)
    • Daniel Kyri (Lady Macduff/Ensemble)
    • Jesse Pennington (Rosse/Ensemble)
    • Adam Poss (Lady Macbeth/Ensemble)
    • Gareth Saxe (Duncan/Ensemble)
    • Ariel Shafir (Macbeth/Ensemble)
    • Travis Turner (Lennox/Ensemble)
    • Danny Zuhlke (Fleance/Ensemble)

    Several cast members have appeared in previous DCPA productions or have longstanding Colorado ties. Hughes is a graduate of the Denver Center's masters program and has appeared in 14 Theatre Company productions. Most recently he was seen in DCPA Cabaret's production of An Act of God in the Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    Saxe is a graduate of Denver East High School and Colorado College who has appeared in Theatre Company productions of The Homecoming and Heartbreak House. He was most recently seen as Scar in the national touring production of The Lion King. (Watch our video interview here.)

    Gallun is a graduate of Denver's George Washington High School who previously appeared here in Lord of the Flies. Kochenberger is a graduate of East High School in Pueblo. Fitzpatrick was last seen in The Book off Will.   

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The creative team includes:

    • Robert O'Hara (Director)
    • Jason Sherwood (Scenic Designer)
    • Dede M. Ayite (Costume Designer)
    • Alex Jainchill (Lighting Designer)
    • Lindsay Jones (Original Music and Sound Designer)
    • Douglas Langworthy (Dramaturgy)
    • Kathryn G. Maes (vocal and dialect coaching)
    • Kurt Van Raden (Stage Manager)
    • D. Lynn Reiland (Assistant Stage Manager)

    Macbeth also marks the reopening of the newly renovated Space Theatre. The nearly 40-year-old venue has been completely rebuilt to enhance the world-class experience for audiences and artists alike.


    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.
    • Presented bythe DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Macbeth at a time when everything is shifting
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening


    Making of Macbeth: Full photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the first day of rehearsal for Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company, along with behind-the-scenes process shots. To see more, click the forward arrow in the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Mayor cuts the ribbon on a new era for the Space Theatre

    by John Moore | Aug 15, 2017
    Space Theatre Renovation Photo gallery: To see more photos from the reopening of the Space Theatre, along with early construction photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Most photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    'The arts are the engine that drives people to our city and sets Denver apart,' Hancock says at reopening ceremony

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist 


    Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock helped cut the ribbon on the newly rebuilt Space Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Tuesday morning, telling the gathered crowd it is the arts that distinguish Denver from other metropolitan cities.

    “We are absolutely giddy to be here as part of this auspicious occasion,” Hancock said at the reopening ceremony, held in The Space Theatre’s fully reconceived new lobby. "We can talk about airports - they help us connect to the world. Everybody has streets. Everybody has parks. But the arts are the engine that drives people to our city and sets Denver apart.”

    The new Space Theatre officially reopens Sept. 22 with Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

    The project was made possible by a $10 million grant from the Better Denver Bond Program, which was part of the largest bond issue in Denver history when it was approved by voters in 2007.

    The nearly 40-year-old Space Theatre was completely gutted and rebuilt from top to bottom. It remains the five-sided “in-the-round” performance space familiar to Denver theatregoers, only it has been fully modernized and features flexible seating configurations that can change from play to play.

    DCPA Chairman Martin Semple called Tuesday “a momentous day in our history.” DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden said: “This has been 30 months of incredible planning and construction. The team at the DCPA and our partners have done a beautiful job.”

    The ceremony took place just hours after the Denver City Council unanimously referred a $937 million bond to the November ballot that, if approved by voters, will make $19 million available for further renovations to the Denver Center’s Stage and Ricketson theatres, also located in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex. “We as a city are willing to put our money behind the renovation, upkeep and sustainability of these great venues so that people can continue to enjoy what makes Denver so special,” Hancock said. “These investments are very strategic. They are important in keeping us a world-class city going forward.”  

    Space Theatre. John Moore photo.  The Space Theatre effort also was boosted by a $1 million donation from The Joan and Phill Berger Charitable Fund, represented Tuesday by Phil and Marcie Munishor. An additional unveiling was held christening the new performance space the Joan and Phill Berger Auditorium (pictured right).

    The Space opened in 1979. While it has enjoyed some cosmetic updates over the years, this was is the first overhaul of both audience amenities and backstage support.

    Because the layout of the theatre remains essentially unchanged, lead architect Chris Wineman of Semple Brown Design predicted that, once inside, returning theatregoers might not even notice that much has changed. But their experience getting to their seats will be dramatically different.

    The original design of the Bonfils Complex featured one main lobby with multiple entrances into both the Space Theatre and the larger Stage Theatre next to it. The Space Theatre now has its own enlarged lobby with one central doorway into the theatre. Before, patrons descended a winding staircase and then climbed back up to their seats from stage level.

    Space Theatre. John Moore photo.  That entire staircase is gone. Audiences will now walk directly into the theatre and down to their seats. That will not only be much more convenient for patrons, Wineman said, audiences for the first time will be fully separated from the cast and creative teams running the show below.

    DCPA Technical Director Jeff Gifford said the new theatre boasts state-of-the-art acoustics, lighting and sound; improved sightlines and is now in full ADA compliance - both for audience members and crews working the shows.

    Overall capacity has been reduced from 420 to 380. But because the seating is now flexible, certain configurations will be able to accommodate up to 416, Gifford said.

    Among all the many improvements, audiences no doubt will cheer the construction of new bathrooms, doubling previous the capacity. But there are others, including:  

    • Modern acoustic treatments specifically meant to accentuate and evenly distribute the spoken word throughout the entire theatre.
    • The old Space Theatre was divided into four levels. The new theatre has just two. There are now more seats on the main floor, closer to the action. That will maintain the intimacy of the original theatre and greatly improve sightlines for many.
    • More wheelchair and companion seating.
    • State-of-the art lighting and all new wiring.
    • An elevator inside the theatre will allow patrons to easily access the main seating level.

    A Space Theatre 800 3
    From left: DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and DCPA Chairman Martin Semple. Photo by John Moore.


    For those artisans who work behind the scenes, Gifford is most excited by the presence of five control booths, one in each section of the theatre. “That means our sound and light operators working the shows now will actually be able to see the shows with their own eyes,” Gifford said. “I don't know if people realize this, but they used to be kept behind a wall, and the only way they saw the show was on a video monitor - as long as that monitor was actually working.”

    Now there will be a home for additional specialists, such as a projections operator, if necessary. Now there is a discreet place where the director or understudy actors can watch a performance without sitting among the crowd. Before, understudies would be sent all the way up to the catwalks to watch a show from overhead. That’s the highest point in the theatre, above the rafters and lights.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The renovation has been supervised by the DCPA Vice President of Facilities and Event Services Clay Courter. “Clay really spearheaded this project from blueprint to completion,” Sinden said.

    “This new and improved Space Theatre keeps the intimate theatre-in-the-round style that brought audiences to an island of lost boys in Lord of The Flies and into the world of August Wilson's Fences,” Courter said. “This new theatre is going to represent a new way of heightening the energy of the audience and the performers in creating that sense of intimacy and connection that has always been the hallmark of seeing a show in the Space Theatre.”

    Several city leaders were present at Tuesday’s ceremony, including Arts and Venues Executive Director Kent Rice and Deputy Director Ginger White Brunetti; Interim Director of Public Works George Delaney, and Deputy City Attorney Shawn Sullivan.


    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.


    Space Theatre tour facts.


    The Space Theatre/Fun facts:

    • The Space Theatre opened on Dec. 31, 1979, with Moby Dick Rehearsed. It reopens Sept. 22 with Robert O’Hara’s reimagined, all-male production of Macbeth.
    • The DCPA Theatre Company has entertained 4.5 million patrons in its four performance venues in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, including the Space Theatre, over the past 38 years.
    • 11,500 worker hours went into the electrical work alone.
    • Turner Construction Company hauled away more than 350 tons of concrete, which is equal to 700 grand pianos, 53 elephants or nearly 5,300 people. Crews then re-poured 550 tons of concrete.


    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.
    • Presented bythe DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    A Space Theatre 800 4The original Space Theatre.
  • City Council approves referendum on DCPA improvements

    by John Moore | Aug 15, 2017
    Michael B. Hancock. Photo by John Moore
    "This is a thoughtful, balanced and responsible investment package created by and for the people of Denver," said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, pictured today at the reopening of the DCPA's Space Theatre.

    Voters in November will consider wide slate of improvements including Stage and Ricketson theatres

    By John More
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Denver City Council on Monday unanimously referred a bond to the November ballot that if approved by voters will make funds available for 460 projects valued at $937 million, including $19 million to renovate the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Stage and Ricketson theatres. Without a tax increase.

    Roughly half of the total bond program would go toward road maintenance, sidewalk connections, intersection improvements and transit infrastructure, Denverite reported.

    The slate includes library renovations; new recreation centers and playgrounds; and upgrades to police and fire stations, cultural institutions such as the Denver Center and enhancements to Denver Health Medical Center.

    Mayor Michael B. Hancock called the initiative "a thoughtful, balanced and responsible investment package created by and for the people of Denver." He said the November vote represents an unparalleled opportunity for the city. 

    More than half of the projects on the list will fix and repair existing infrastructure, with the remainder dedicated to upgrades and new infrastructure across the city.

    There was no opposition voiced at the council meeting.
     
    The proposed improvements will be presented to voters as seven separate spending packages. The referendum including the DCPA and other cultural institutions will be known as 2B, which DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden took as a positive sign, given its proximity to Shakespeare's "To be or not to be" speech from Hamlet.

    "We're excited to work with the city on the upcoming bond campaign," DCPA Sinden said at this morning's reopening of the DCPA's Space Theatre - which benefited in part from the city's 2007 "Better Denver" bond package. "I will be plugging it shamelessly." 

    The improvements would not mean an increase in the tax rate, Denverite reported, which will likely be a taken as major selling point. Property owners would be paying more for debt service than in the past because their property generally is worth more.

    "These measures were created with the most public input of any bond proposal in Denver’s history,” Hancock said.

    The seven separate ballot questions include:

    • $431 million for transportation and mobility projects
    • $116.9 million for city-owned cultural facility improvements (including the Stage and Ricketon theatres)
    • $75 million for a new outpatient care center at Denver Health Medical Center
    • $77 million for safety facility projects
    • $69.3 million for Denver Public Library improvements
    • $151.6 million for parks and recreation
    • $16.5 million for city-owned facility improvements
    Visit 2017GObond for more information about the bond process and projects.
  • Photos: Space Theatre renovation continues on schedule

    by John Moore | Sep 08, 2016
    This video captures the construction of the new Space Theatre lobby from May 2 through Aug. 22, 2016. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    The ongoing renovation of the Denver Center's Space Theatre, home to the DCPA Theatre Company, continues. And truth be told, "renovation" is far too inadequate a term for the project. The Space has been completely gutted, and a new theatre is being built from scratch.

    The project, which began in March, is running on schedule. The Space Theatre, located within the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex will re-open, again as five-sided and "in-the-round," in September 2017.

    Demolition has been completed, concrete has been poured for the first balcony in the theatre and restroom renovations are well underway.

    One fun fact from the project — Turner Construction estimates it has hauled away more than 200 tons of concrete, which is equal to 400 grand pianos, 30 elephants or nearly 3,000 people.

    As part of the project, restroom capacity for both the Space and the nearby Stage Theatre is being doubled. The expanded facilities for Stage Theatre patrons will be available when Frankenstein opens for previews on Sept. 30.

    (Pictured above right: How the Space Theatre looks at present. It reopens in September 2017. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    The 550-seat Space Theatre opened in 1979. While the theatre has enjoyed some cosmetic updates over the years, the current project is the first overhaul of both audience amenities as well as the backstage support. The former Space Theatre had four levels of seating. Once completed, there will be just two levels, greatly improving sightlines for audience members. And while the number of seats will be increased on the main floor, the overall seating capacity will be reduced to 416 seats, preserving the intimacy of the live theatre experience.

    The project was made possible in part by a $10 million grant from the Better Denver Bond Program. Once completed, the theatre will feature a flexible performance space allowing for innovative design and adaptable staging, full ADA compliance and improvements that are intended to enhance the audience's enjoyment of each production -- state-of-the-art acoustics, lighting and sound; improved sightlines, and more main-level seating.

    The original design of the Bonfils Complex features one main lobby with multiple entrances into both the Space and Stage theatres. Once renovated, The Space Theatre will have its own enlarged lobby with one central doorway into the theatre, eliminating stairs to a lower-level entrance and making the entry fully accessible.

    The renovation is being supervised by the DCPA's Clay Courter (Vice President, Facilities and Event Services) and Alyssa Stock (Assistant Project Manager).

    Our gallery of Space Theatre renovation photos:

    Space Theatre Renovation

    This photo gallery will be added to throughout the year. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • DCPA making Space Theatre seats available to public for free

    by John Moore | Feb 25, 2016
    SPACE Theatre SEATS
    About 400 seats from the DCPA's Space Theatre are now up for grabs.


    With Sunday's final performance of the DCPA Theatre Company's The Nest, The Space Theatre closed for a year-long renovation. And the DCPA is now making the iconic theatre's 400 remaining forest-green seats available to local theatre companies and schools on a first-come basis, for free.

    "They are all individual seats," said DCPA Director of Production Jeff Gifford. "They are not on sleds."

    Space Theatre Seats. The Nest. The Edge Theatre in Lakewood already has claimed 80 seats, which is its capacity. Company co-ounder Rick Yaconis said he plans to bolt his new seats into wheeled platforms, so he can maintain the his space's performance flexibility at the company's 40 West Art Gallery space off Colfax and Teller Street.

    For expediency's sake, Gifford says he hopes a few groups will take seats in large numbers, rather than individuals requesting a seat or two.

    "We are trying to cast as large a net as possible so we can find these seats a new home and keep them from going into a landfill," Gifford said. 

    The seats were manufactured by the Irwin Seating Company.

    To request the seats, or arrange to inspect them, please email Assistant Project Manager This is an email link: Alyssa Stock at astock@dcpa.org.

    All seats must be claimed by March 28.

    "We would prefer to donate them, and if we can help out the local theatre community in the process, that is always a bonus," Stock said.

    SPACE Theatre SEATSThe renovation of the Space Theatre is already underway. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Above right: 'The Nest' was the final production in the Space Theatre as we knew it. Photo by Adams Visual Communications.
  • 2015 True West Award: Phamaly Theatre Company’s 'Cabaret'

    by John Moore | Dec 30, 2015

    Daniel Traylor played one of two Emcees with hearing loss in Phamaly Theatre Company's provocative production of 'Cabaret.' The other was played by Garrett Zuercher (back). Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    ​Today’s recipient:
    Phamaly Theatre Company’s Cabaret
    Bryce Alexander, Director

    Today’s award presenter:
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore


    Denver’s acclaimed Phamaly Theatre Company hired a new artistic director last year who is the same age that it is. And while 26 years might seem long and established for a theatre troupe – it feels downright wet behind the ears for the person chosen to run it.

    Bryce Alexander had big shoes to fill when Steve Wilson stepped down a year ago. Over 14 years, Wilson had overseen great artistic, business and programming strides, growing Phamaly into a national model for how to create professional performance opportunities for actors with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities.

    a phamaly 400Alexander, who had served as Wilson’s assistant since he was just, gulp, 19! – would have been forgiven for more slowly making his mark on a company that allows audiences to see big Broadway musicals such as Urinetown and The Man of LaMancha from a wholly different storytelling perspective.

    But Alexander did not take his time. He upped the stakes in several ways: 

    • He spearheaded Phamaly’s first international exchange mission by sending The Fantasticks to Japan as part of a convention to advance the global independence of people with disabilities.
    • He worked with former Executive Director Chris Silberman to open Phamaly’s new rehearsal and business complex at a southwest Denver warehouse that grew the company’s space six-fold.
    • He expanded the company’s statewide children’s tour of Red Riding Hood, bringing actors with disabilities into schools all around the state.
    • He fearlessly programmed a staging of Christopher Durang’s intentionally unpleasant black comedy Baby With the Bathwater that would test the tolerance of any theatre company’s audience base.
    Pictured above right: Lyndsay Palmer as Sally Bowles in 'Cabaret' alongside her real-life husband, Jeremy Palmer (Cliff Bradshaw), and Daniel Traylor (one of two Emcees).

    And while Phamaly will continue to cast only actors with disabilities in its shows, the company is constantly re-examining its definition of disability. According to the Council on Disability Awareness, 1 in 4 Americans will have some sort of diagnosable disability by the time they retire. This study includes a number of less visible conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, back pain, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. The makeup of Phamaly’s acting ensembles have subtly shifted in recent years to include actors with these less visible conditions.

    But nothing made it more clear in 2015 that Alexander’s Phamaly is no longer his mentor’s Phamaly when he chose to stage the seedy Broadway musical Cabaret  as his first annual summer Broadway musical at the Denver Center’s Space Theatre.

    Phamaly quote Juliet WittmanCabaret, based on Christopher Isherwood’s coming-of-age experiences as the Nazis were rising to power in 1931 Berlin, centers on the sexually ambiguous relationship between a drug-addicted British diva named Sally Bowles and the sexually confused young American writer Cliff Bradshaw.

    This is a tricky story for any director to fully communicate on the stage, but that didn’t stop Alexander from challenging Phamaly audiences in both expected and uncomfortable new ways. His Fraulein Schneider was played by an actor whose speech has been severely slowed by Parkinsons disease. His lovely Sally Bowles is hard of hearing. He cast two actors with varying degrees of hearing loss to share the role of the Emcee - which is not to say they shared performances. Alexander presented the Emcee as two separate androgynous characters exploring the ups and downs of their love affair, one singing and one using sign language. Alexander chose perennial Phamaly favorite Daniel Traylor opposite Garrett Zuercher, who became the first big-shot actor in company history to be cast out of New York.

    It all added up to a year with risk as Phamaly's recurring theme. And Alexander didn’t mind if that meant some of his audiences might squirm. Rather, that was the point.

    In Cabaret, Alexander dared to confront audiences with half-naked disabled actors in wheelchairs playing fully sexualized and even decadent beings, busting yet another cultural taboo. Audiences were asked to examine whether and why that might make them uncomfortable. And think about the performers: “The actors also face the stigma attached not only to disability itself, but to the idea of disabled people as sexual beings,” Westword’s Juliet Wittman wrote. “It takes a huge amount of courage for a profoundly disabled person to appear on a stage, and the courage required multiplies exponentially when that person has to flaunt his or her sexuality.” 

    Alexander took inspiration for the immortalized Kit Kat Klub from Berlin’s Blue Stocking, where soldiers would hook up with prostitutes who might be missing an arm or a leg. In wartime Germany, Alexander wrote in his Cabaret program notes, performers with disabilities were among the first to be rounded up, sterilized, experimented upon or killed.  

    Alexander’s creative Cabaret departures were not always entirely clear in performance, but the effort made for high-stakes storytelling that had critics congratulating his artistic courage. Lisa Kennedy of The Denver Post called the staging resonant and edgy. “Sex and disability aren't often put in the same room together,” she wrote. “Here, they more than embrace — they bump and grind.”

    But perhaps the greatest change underway at Phamaly is one of perception. Alexander wants to challenge audiences and journalists alike to consider the work Phamaly puts on the stage according to the same standards they would apply to any other company – without qualification. Instead of routinely identifying Phamaly as "Denver's disabled (or handicapped) theatre company," however well-intentioned, he'd rather they say, "Phamaly is a professional theatre company that uses disability as a lens." That would represent a subtle but really monumental shift in the way the company is perceived.

    But that may come with unintended consequences, as Phamaly is simply unlike any other theatre company. "And disability is still absolutely central to what we do," Alexander said.

    First up in the new year, Phamaly will present Fuddy Meers, another challenging dark comedy that will be directed by DCPA Artistic Associate Emily Tarquin at the Aurora Fox (Feb. 4-21) and Arvada Center (Feb. 26-28).

    Of special significance should be an April staging of Nagle Jackson’s Taking Leave, about a Shakespearean professor who, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, is "taking leave" of the real world and imagining a new one. It plays April 1-17 in the DCPA’s Jones Theatre.

    The big Broadway musical next summer will be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita. That will take place July 14-Aug. 7 at the University of Denver's Newman Center. That’s because the DCPA’s Stage Theatre will be undergoing a year-long remodel.

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


    THE 2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE
    Day 1: Rachel D. Graham
    Day 2: BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular
    Day 3: Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Day 4: Laurence Curry
    Day 5: Bernie Cardell
    Day 6: Susan Lyles
    Day 7: John Jurcheck​
    Day 8: Christopher L. Sheley
    Day 9: DCPA Education's 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot'
    Day 10: Man and Monster: Todd Debreceni and TJ Hogle
    Day 11: Shauna Johnson
    Day 12: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant
    Day 13: Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye
    Day 14: Keith Ewer
    Day 15: Allison Watrous
    Day 16: Jonathan Farwell
    Day 17: Bob, Wendy and Missy Moore
    Day 18: Emma Messenger
    Day 19: Shannon McKinney
    Day 20: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
    Day 21: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
    Day 22: Scott Beyette
    Day 23: Augustus Truhn
    Day 24: Jimmy Bruenger
    Day 25: The Masters of Props: Rob Costigan, Peki Pineda and Becky Toma
    Day 26: Jalyn Courtenay Webb
    Day 27: Andre Rodriguez
    Day 28: Rebecca Remaly
    Day 29: Mark Collins
    Day 30: Phamaly Theatre Company's Cabaret
    Bonus: Donald R. Seawell
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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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