• Photos: First look at 'The Great Leap,' Opening Night of 'American Mariachi'

    by John Moore | Feb 09, 2018
    Production photos: Your first look at The Great Leap:


    The Great Leap Photos from 'The Great Leap,' opening Friday (tonight) and performing through March 11 in the Ricketson Theatre. To see more photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery. Photos by Adams VisCom.  

    The Great Leap: Ticket information
    GreatLeap_show_thumbnail_160x160When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard. American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, while Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly changing country. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action on the court.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Through March 11
    • Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here


    Photos: Opening night of American Mariachi:

    Making of 'American Mariachi'

    Photos from opening night of the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere of 'American Mariachi,' performing in the Stage Theatre through Feb. 25. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    American Mariachi: Ticket information

    160x160-amercian-mariachi-tempAt a glance: Lucha and Boli are ready to start their own all-female mariachi band in 1970s Denver, but they’ll have to fight a male-dominated music genre and pressure from their families to get it done. This humorous, heartwarming story about music’s power to heal and connect includes gorgeous live mariachi music..

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Feb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Video: First look at 'The Great Leap,' and 5 things we learned at Perspectives

    by John Moore | Feb 06, 2018
    Your first look at 'The Great Leap.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Playwright Lauren Yee intends to take audiences right down to the buzzer when her new play opens Friday  

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Denver audiences have not yet seen Lauren Yee’s new basketball play The Great Leap, opening Friday in the Ricketson Theatre. But while no literal hoops action goes down on the stage, actor Linden Tailor says the story plays out much like any good, close basketball game: You don't know how it’s going to come out till the very end.

    “The play builds in intensity the same way a game does in those final two minutes,” said Tailor, who plays a short but scrappy Chinese-American player named Manford in Yee's tale of a college basketball team that travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game and lands right in the middle of the Cultural Revolution. “That’s the feeling I hope the audience gets when they see the play.”

    The occasion was Perspectives, the DCPA Theatre Company’s ongoing series of community conversations held just before every first preview performance. Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy was joined by Yee, Tailor, actor Keiko Green, Dramaturg Kristin Leahey of the Seattle Repertory Theatre and Scenic Designer Wilson Chin.

    Yee takes great pains to make her play mirror the game she honors in several ways. The sound of dribbles make for heightened sound effects, for example. Intermission is like halftime. There is a big game at the end of the play, but the audiences only hear about it in a fugue of language. Actors quickly toss words back and forth like the passing of a basketball. "There are times when all four of us are sharing a sentence," Green said. The effect is similar to the teamwork you see in a game. “You can feel it when the players are comfortable and supportive of each other," she said. "And that’s the feeling we hope to convey as actors."

    Here are five things we learned about The Great Leap at Perspectives. Next up: A conversation with the creative team from Native Gardens at 6 p.m. Friday, April 6, in the Jones Theatre:

    The Great Leap Perspectives. Photo by John Moore

    From left: Douglas Langworthy, Keiko Green, Linden Tailor, Lauren Yee, Kristin Leahey, Wilson Chin and Eric Ting. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Full photo gallery below.

    NUMBER 1"Let's go co." In its nearly 400 productions, the DCPA Theatre Company has only participated in two previous “co-productions” — world-premiere plays created in full partnership with another company. And they both took place in 2000: The Laramie Project, with Moisés Kaufman’s Tectonic Theatre Project in New York, and the epic 10-play cycle Tantalus with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Until now. This season, the DCPA is launching two "co-pros" simultaneously: The Great Leap with the Seattle Repertory Theatre (opening there March 28) and American Mariachi with the Old Globe in San Diego (opening there on March 29). One of the primary reasons most theatres enter co-productions is the opportunity to share expenses. But Leahey said this arrangement has far more to do with overlapping interests. "It was an affinity for the play, for the playwright and the opportunity to collaborate with our friends the Denver Center," she said. "It was not for financial reasons."

    NUMBER 2The evolution will not be televised. Yee's play was first introduced to Denver Center audiences last February as a featured reading at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Since then, "I think the play has changed an incredible amount," said Yee — and not just the title, which has morphed from the original Manford at Half Court to Manford at the Line Or The Great Leap to, finally, the shortened The Great Leap. "As a writer, I tend to know the major pieces of the puzzle early on, like the characters and the setting," Yee said. "For me the rewriting process — like being at the Summit for two weeks and seeing how it works in front of audiences — is figuring out better ways of connecting those pieces together."

    NUMBER 3Language barrier. Half of The Great Leap takes place in San Francisco, and half takes place in China. Yee was asked by a Perspectives audience member if the play will ever be staged in China, and she said that had not yet even occurred to her. "I don't think it would work there," she said. "My references are so American, both in terms of language and pop-culture references, that I don't know how it would read to a Chinese audience. In America, we have a very specific take on what our history is, and I'm sure that China has a very specific take on what world history is. I think if you were to see my play in China, you would be like, "No. You are completely wrong about our history. I see it entirely differently.' "

    NUMBER 4The Great Leap Linden Tailor Nuggets. Photo by Hope GrandonThe Hornets rest. The Great Leap cast made a field trip on Monday to the Denver Nuggets' game against the Charlotte Hornets, where they were welcomed by a message on the giant scoreboard. They also met Rocky, one of the most popular mascots in all of sports. And in return, the cast sent the Nuggets their good vibes, which surely played a part in the Nuggets' 121-104 rout. "It's fun to go to a game and have it be research," Tailor joked. (Photo: Rocky and Linden Tailor. Photo by Hope Grandon.)

    NUMBER 5Ordinary people. Yee’s next play is called Cambodian Rock Band, and it bears one major similarity to The Great Leap, she said: Ordinary people intersecting with extraordinary places in history. “In Cambodia during the 1960s and '70s, there was a whole psychedelic surf-rock scene that you never heard about because the communists took over Cambodia in 1975, after the Vietnam War ended," Yee said, "and the first thing they did was kill all the artists. In four years, 90 percent of their musicians died, and the only ones who survived are those who hid their identities. My play is the story of a Cambodian-American woman and her father, who is a Khmer Rouge survivor. In the course of the play, the daughter learns that her father was in this rock band. I think that's something we can all relate to: Not really fully knowing who your parents are.” It opens March 3 at the South Coast Repertory in Orange County, Calif.

    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 Great Leap:

    The making of 'The Great Leap' Photos from the making of 'The Great Leap,' opening Friday and performing through March 11 in the Ricketson Theatre. To see more photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Pictured above is Director Eric Ting (pictured). 

    The Great Leap: Ticket information
    GreatLeap_show_thumbnail_160x160When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard. American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, while Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly changing country. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action on the court.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Through March 11
    • Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    Read more: Our complete interview with Lauren Yee

    Selected previous coverage of The Great Leap:
    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

  • 'The Great Leap:' 5 Things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Jan 12, 2018
    The making of 'The Great Leap'Check out our full gallery of photos from the first rehearsal for 'The Great Leap.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by Sam Adams John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Newest Denver Center world premiere is a basketball story that already has a road trip scheduled after its home opener 

    Rehearsals began Tuesday for the third of three soon-to-be simultaneous DCPA Theatre Company world-premiere plays. And, like American Mariachi, when Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap finishes its inaugural run in Denver on March 11, it’s hitting the road with its cast and creative team intact.

    The Great Leap, about a college basketball team that travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game in the post-Cultural Revolution 1980s, is a co-production with the Seattle Repertory Theatre, where it will run from March 23 to April 22. The play will then make its New York premiere opening May 23 at the Atlantic Theatre Company with its own, different cast and creative team.

    “We are excited for this play to have a long and successful life, and we are honored to be premiering it here at the Denver Center,” said Associate Artistic Director Charlie Miller.

    Yee was commissioned to write The Great Leap for the Denver Center in 2015. The play was first introduced to audiences a year ago as a reading at the Denver Center’s Colorado New Play Summit. The dramaturg was, and remains, Kristin Leahey of Seattle Rep.

    The Great Leap Lauren Yee Photo by John Moore“The Denver Center has been so welcoming in inviting us to be a part of this wonderful journey with this fantastic play,” Leahey said at the opening rehearsal. “We are so thrilled to continue on this journey together, and we hope you all join us in Seattle for the next iteration of the show.”

    Since the Summit, Yee has aggressively developed her story, workshopping the play at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis and at New York Stage and Film. “So it’s done a mini-United States tour already, and it hasn’t even opened yet,” Miller said. "There is already a lot of positive buzz about this play throughout the field."

    The Great Leap focuses on a short kid from San Francisco’s Chinatown named Manford who talks his way onto the China-bound exhibition team and soon finds himself inadvertently embroiled in international politics. "It's really the story of a young Chinese-American kid who goes to China to learn something about himself as a basketball player, as an American, and as someone of Chinese descent," Yee said. "And I think it is about how sports and politics intersect and mirror one another."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The story is told "with a ton of heart and is also very funny," Miller added, "but it is told with a historical and political backdrop that also gives people an interesting window into Tiananmen Square and the cultural revolution in China. It’s not often that you have a play about sports that also deals with so many other bigger issues.”

    The remarkable thing about the play to Director Eric Ting is its utter originality. After all, how many plays have there ever been about a Chinese-American basketball player? “A young Asian man on a basketball team is already an uncommon affair,” Ting said. “Manford is a person without a place wherever he is — which is a story I think many of us are very familiar with. We want to make sure this play is a celebration of what it means to be different.”

    Here are five quick things we learned at first rehearsal:

    NUMBER 1The Great Leap Eric Ting Photo by John MooreTiana who what where? One thing that has caught Ting off-guard over the past year is discovering how many young people have never heard of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. Which, if you are over 30, probably just made your back ache. But it’s a rather central plot point, so here is a refresher: The Tiananmen Square protests were student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in the capital city of Beijing in the summer of 1989. The protests, primarily targeting government corruption, lack of transparency and freedom of speech in post-Mao China, were forcibly suppressed after the government declared martial law. Troops with automatic rifles and tanks killed several hundred demonstrators trying to block the military's advance toward Tiananmen Square. The number of civilian deaths has been reported variously from 180 to 10,000. The enduring image from all that bloodshed was of a lone unidentified man dressed in a white shirt and holding a shopping bag who stood in front of a column of tanks. He became known around the world only as “Tank Man,” a powerful symbol of both violence and non-violent resistance.

    NUMBER 2Founding father. The inspiration for the play is Yee's father who, like the fictional Manford, grew up in Chinatown. “Before my father had children, the only thing he was good at was playing basketball,” said Yee. In 1981, he was invited with some of his American teammates to play a series of exhibition games throughout China. “My father had never been to China,” said Yee. “They played in 10,000-seat stadiums. The games were broadcast back on American television. And when I asked him, ‘Did you win?’ he told me, ‘We got demolished almost every single game.’ And that was because my father was the center — and he is only 6-foot-1. Their tallest player was 7-foot-6 and 350 pounds. My dad said, 'Nobody wanted to guard this guy,’ and they got creamed.”

    NUMBER 3The game is afoot. Even though the play has very little actual basketball game play in it, “there is a rhythm and an energy to the script that should make you feel like you have just been through a basketball game,” Ting said. "The scenes move like a game, and are quick in transition," Yee added. But that doesn’t mean the storytelling is always kinetic. “Basketball isn't just about movement,” Ting said. “It's also about stillness. It's about holding your ground. It's about finding each other in the space.”

    (Story continues below the video.)

    Video bonus: Our interview with Lauren Yee from the Colorado New Play Summit

    Th title of Lauren Yee's play changed three times during development before settling on 'The Great Leap.' Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.

    Read more: Our complete interview with Lauren Yee

    NUMBER 4The enduring Dream. When Ting first read The Great Leap, he made the not-so-great leap to the archetypal American Dream. “It is very hard to underestimate the profound impact the possibility of the American Dream has on all the immigrants of this Earth, and the role this nation has played, historically, in inspiring people to make change,” Ting said. “One reason this play is important right now is to remind of that role we still play as a country. This is a play about what it means to dream and pursue something."  

    NUMBER 5Team Uncommon. The returning Scenic Designer is Wilson Chin, who blew audiences away last season with his singular vision for the DCPA Theatre Company’s The Secret Garden. “That was one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” Chin said. “I really fell in love with the Denver Center, and I fell in love with this town." With The Great Leap, Chin is now part of something almost completely unheard of: A creative team led by a Chinese-American director telling a Chinese-American story written by a Chinese-American playwright for a theatre that does not routinely tell Chinese-American stories. “Eric and I have done a few shows together, but in all my years of working in the theatre, that has never happened before," Chin said. "To get to tell a Chinese-American story with other Chinese-Americans is moving, and it’s thrilling. I can't wait for us to go down this road together.”

    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.

    The Great Leap: Cast and creatives

    • Written by Lauren Yee
    • Directed by Eric Ting
    • Scenic Designer: Wilson Chin
    • Costume Designer: Valérie Thérèse Bart
    • Lighting Designer: Christopher Kuhl
    • Sound Designer: Curtis Craig
    • Projection Design: Shawn Duan
    • Dramaturg: Kristin Leahey
    • Stage Manager: Jessica Bomball
    • Assistant Stage Manager: D. Lynn Reiland

    Cast:

    • Bob Ari as Saul
    • Keiko Green as Connie
    • Linden Tailor as Manford
    • Joseph Steven Yang as Wen Chang

    The Great Leap: Ticket information
    GreatLeap_show_thumbnail_160x160When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard. American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, while Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly changing country. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action on the court.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Feb. 2-March 11
    • Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    Selected previous coverage of The Great Leap:
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Vast and visceral: Theatre Company season will include The Great Leap

  • Jenn Thompson on 'The Secret Garden' as a space to heal

    by John Moore | May 09, 2017

    The Secret Garden. Adams VisCom


    The director calls The Secret Garden a powerful story about rebirth, renewal, and forging family ties found and formed.


    By Sylvie Drake
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    There was nothing quite so appealing to the Victorians as tales of tragedy, gloom and redemption. Think Charles Dickens. But a less well-remembered though equally prolific writer by the name of Frances Hodgson Burnett, who grew up in England on a diet of Dickens, Walter Scott and Thackeray before emigrating to the United States, used that formula as the inspiration for much of her own literary work.

    With a twist. She is mostly remembered today for three children’s books: Little Lord Fauntleroy (1885), which became a worldwide sensation that put her on the map; A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden, serialized in 1909 when Burnett was already 60 and published as a book in 1911.

    Unlike the previous two works, The Secret Garden was tepidly received when it emerged and almost forgotten by the time Burnett died in 1924. So credit Marsha Norman (book and lyrics) and Lucy Simon (music) with rescuing the novel by using it as the basis for their 1989 musical of the same name.

    The book deserved the rescue. It tells of the transformation of a selfish little girl, Mary Lennox, growing up privileged in India, who loses her uncaring parents to cholera and is sent back to England to live on the estate of a hunchbacked uncle, Archibald Craven. Craven is too involved mourning the loss of his wife to pay much attention to his son Colin, let alone the unexpected arrival of this niece. So Mary, once again, finds herself left to her own devices. But when she befriends her maid Martha, and Martha’s brother Dickon, Mary starts to see the world through different eyes.

    When Mary discovers a sealed and dying garden that once belonged to Colin’s mother and decides to bring it back to life, other things begin to change as well. With Dickon’s help, she finds a path not only to her salvation, but also to her cousin Colin who, unfairly treated as an invalid since birth, is in even greater need of rescuing. Thanks to the shared experience of bringing a garden back to life, they discover all the good that awaits them in theirs: the joy of friendship, the value of the caring and kindness of others, and nature’s singular restorative power.

    It is a sweet and hopeful story. Burnett’s novel focused on Mary, Colin and Dickon — and a little red robin that points the way. But the musical, which added a chorus of ghosts and a complex musical score, evolved into a kind of chamber opera with a thriller backdrop. Its technical intricacy requires many skills. So where does the emphasis land?

    “For me the emphasis has always been to keep it accessible,” replied Jenn Thompson, charged with staging the DCPA Theatre Company's current production of The Secret Garden, running through May 28.

    “I haven’t done this show before, but I’ve done other technically complicated and large-scale musicals. [The Secret Garden] could easily feel rather weighted down, and while I have no intention of dodging any of its darker themes — grief, death, abandonment — I’ve approached all aspects with an eye to letting the audience in. The theatre space is a great help. We perform on a thrust stage. That automatically pushes the actors into the audience’s orbit.” And, she added, the experience will be enhanced by “a big, beautiful live orchestra.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Casting, which started in November, was an arduous process. “It’s far and away the most important thing I do,” Thompson said. “Much of the success of the show rests on those decisions. Do-overs in casting are rare and can be very disruptive, so it’s crucial to get it right. I look for talent and skill, but also for people who inspire me to want to spend six weeks with them under close and sometimes stressful circumstances.

     “I vet every actor I hire if I don’t already know them. Enthusiasm, professionalism, directability and a sense of humor always turn my head. The same applies to the kids — though I might inquire about their parents as well, since they’ll be part of the company.”

    Story continues below the video:



    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.



    Thompson critically chose Patricia Wilcox as choreographer, saying, “We’ve worked together on multiple projects. She’s a great partner as well as choreographer. My favorite designers, musical directors and choreographers always bow to story first. It’s great to have a team around you that shares your taste and whose opinions you trust, even when [these don’t] necessarily pertain to their area of expertise.”

    But Thompson’s choices go beyond shared enthusiasms. The structure of The Secret Garden demands precision and shovelfuls of collaboration. Colleagues she’s used to can provide it.

    “This is a show that may be a little hard to penetrate,” she explained. “Some of the characters are in deep mourning, but anyone who has been through grieving knows that there are many colors to bereavement. It’s a lot more complicated than just being perpetually sad. These characters are looking to connect and they can only change by making themselves vulnerable to one another.

    “It’s a powerful story about rebirth and renewal, about creating a space to heal and grow. It’s also about forging family ties — found and biological. I wish to honor this message of reinvention. I’d love for the audience to see itself in these characters and be inspired by their fortitude in the face of great loss.

    “My aim is to make a clear lane for the audience to go on this ride, for us to try and live inside these beloved and familiar characters and not present them but inhabit them. And, of course,” she underscored, “be entertained.”


    Sylvie Drake is a translator and contributing writer to culturalweekly.com, American Theatre magazine, and is a former theatre critic and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. 

    The Secret Garden: Ticket information
    The Secret GardenThe beloved classic blossoms anew in this enchanting musical full of beautiful melodies. When young Mary uncovers the key to her late aunt’s long-lost garden, she becomes determined to revive the beauty that once flourished.
    Book and lyrics by Marsha Norman; music by Lucy Simon;
    based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

    Through May 28
    Stage Theatre
    Denver Performing Arts Complex
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    Previous coverage of The Secret Garden:
    Video: How does our Secret Garden grow?
    Video, photos: Your first look at The Secret Garden
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Five things we learned at Perspectives
    Meet the cast: Zoe Manarel, who plays Mary Lennox
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    Photo coverage: The Secret Garden:

    The Secret Garden- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season

    Photos by Adams VisCom. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Photo gallery: The Secret Garden in Denver:

    'The Secret Garden' in DenverPhotos following the making of 'The Secret Garden' in Denver. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore and Bamboo Booth.
  • Video, photos: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Secret Garden'

    by John Moore | Apr 27, 2017
    Video: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's The Secret Garden:



    Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved classic blossoms anew as a stage musical opening Friday at the Denver Center's Stage Theatre. Here is your first look at the production in video (above) and photos (below.)

    Secret Garden. Kate Marilley, Stephen Cerf, Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom.The Secret Garden
    is the classic story of Mary Lennox, the sickly and unloved 10-year-old born in India to wealthy British parents. When her mother and father are lost to the cholera epidemic, Mary is doomed to a life of isolation with her uncle in England - until she uncovers the key to her late aunt’s long-lost garden and becomes determined to revive the beauty that once flourished.

    The book and lyrics are written by Marsha Norman; the music is by Lucy Simon; and the DCPA staging is directed by Jenn Thompson and Gregg Coffin (music).. The DCPA Theatre Company production plays through May 28 in the Stage Theatre.

    (Pictured right: Kate Marilley and Stephen Cerf of the company from 'The Secret Garden.'  Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom.)

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. Photos by Adams VisCom. To see more, simply click the "forward" arrow on the image below.

    Photo Gallery: 'The Secret Garden' production images:

    The Secret Garden- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Secret Garden: Ticket information
    The Secret Garden
    The beloved classic blossoms anew in this enchanting musical full of beautiful melodies. When young Mary uncovers the key to her late aunt’s long-lost garden, she becomes determined to revive the beauty that once flourished.
    Book and lyrics by Marsha Norman; music by Lucy Simon;
    based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

    April 21-May 28
    Stage Theatre
    Denver Performing Arts Complex
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    Previous coverage of The Secret Garden:

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Five things we learned at Perspectives
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

  • Five things we learned about 'The Secret Garden' at Perspectives

    by John Moore | Apr 25, 2017
    Photo gallery: The making of The Secret Garden in Denver:

    'The Secret Garden' in Denver

    Perspectives is a series of panel discussions held just before the first public performance of each DCPA Theatre Company staging. 'The Secret Garden' panel included actors Liam Ford (Dickon), Nancy Johnston (Mrs. Medlock) and Daniel Plimpton (Lieutenant Shaw); Music Director Gregg Coffin; Scenic Designer Wilson Chin; and Choreographer Patricia Wilcox. The moderator was Litetary Associate Chad Henry. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    A melancholy mother, a feral Dickon and a necessarily
    athletic pit of busy musicians


    By John Moore

    Senior Arts Journalist

    Here are five things we learned about the DCPA Theatre Company's upcoming production of The Secret Garden at Perspectives, held April 21 in the Jones Theatre:

    NUMBER 1 A Secret Garden 340Frances Hodgson Burnett, who wrote The Secret Garden in 1911, suffered from depression for most of her life, which in her time was called “melancholia.” Her depression worsened when her oldest son, Lionel, died of tuberculosis in 1890. That spurred her interest in Christian Science, which asserted that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone. Her depression and her interest in Christian Science greatly informed her famous novel. “It's not ever spoken of directly,” said Scenic Designer Wilson Chin, “but it’s all over the novel in terms of Mary’s need to be outside and avoid dark places.” Christian Scientists believe that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected not by medicine but by prayer.

    DCPA expands captioning pilot program for deaf audiences

    NUMBER 2Burnett is of course best-remembered for having written The Secret Garden, but the enduring book was not celebrated during Burnett's lifetime, and at the time paled in popularity compared to her now largely forgotten Little Lord Fauntleroy. In fact, none of the author's obituary notices even mentioned The Secret Garden at all.

    NUMBER 3Nancy Johnston (pictured above), who played Mrs. Winthrope in the original Broadway production of The Secret Garden and is here in Denver playing the housekeeper Mrs. Medlock, brought her Broadway show jacket from 1991 to show the audience. Johnston was with the inaugural production from its earliest workshop days. “The minute it started being talked about as a Broadway show, eyes would light up,”  Johnston said. “We watched how people wept and laughed and took this wonderful story to heart. It was a wonderful experience.” And while generations of pre-teen girls have gravitated to Burnett’s source novel, Johnston said the musical stage adaptation is much more than a young girl’s story. “It's about big stuff like loss, redemption, forgiveness and acceptance,” she said. Chin added that while children are naturally drawn to The Secret Garden, “It's also a very adult story.”

    NUMBER 4Chin has created a set for Denver audiences that plays with proportion to emphasize that the story revolves around an 11-year-old girl who never leaves the stage. “I wanted the world of the play to be large and operatic, so everything is scaled to make this little girl look and feel as scared and hopeless as possible before she finds redemption at the end,” said Chin. He describes the world he has created as fluid and atmospheric to match the mood of the story, which shifts over time from dark and oppressive to lightness and life. “The Secret Garden is about all the things I love about the theatre – sadness, grief and despair,” Chin said with a laugh. “But it’s also about life and hope and optimism. You have to dig deep into the sadness before you can come back up again. That makes the story that much richer. So my design was all about making sure those two extremes are portrayed.”


    'The Secret Garden' orchestra at sitzprobe, the first rehearsal where the musicians and actors come together to run the show. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the photo gallery at the top of this page.

    NUMBER 5

    The orchestra will feature 10 live musicians, making this the DCPA Theatre Company’s largest pit in five years. But that’s 10 people doing the job that 21 musicians handled in the original Broadway production. “This is a very athletic pit of musicians, because they cover the same ground,”  said Music Director Gregg Coffin, who began his preparations months ago by singlehandedly learning the parts all 21 musicians played in the Broadway production, instrument by instrument. “That way I could see what needed to be culled because it was ornamental, and what had to be compensated for because the actors absolutely have to hear it on the stage,” Coffin said. And if an essential sound happened to be written for an instrument that was no longer present in Coffin's smaller musician pool, he added, “Then I needed to find other instruments that could do it. Our musicians are playing a lot more music than the original ones did, and I am incredibly proud of that group of 10 down there.”

    Bonus: One extra seed to plant

    Actor Liam Forde, who plays Dickon, has never performed in a professional musical before now, “so I am kind of freaking out about it,” he said to laughs. In the source book, Dickon is Martha’s 12-year-old brother. Here, Forde’s Dickon is 17 “and basically feral,” he said. “Dickon spends days and days without ever going inside. He not only talks to the animals but he has some animalistic qualities about himself. Even in the book, Dickon says, 'I think I might be part-bunny.’ ” To which castmate Daniel Plimpton responded: “As is Liam.”

    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

    The Secret Garden: Ticket information
    The Secret Garden
    The beloved classic blossoms anew in this enchanting musical full of beautiful melodies. When young Mary uncovers the key to her late aunt’s long-lost garden, she becomes determined to revive the beauty that once flourished.
    Book and lyrics by Marsha Norman; music by Lucy Simon;
    based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

    April 21-May 28
    Stage Theatre
    Denver Performing Arts Complex
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

     

    Previous coverage of The Secret Garden:
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    The Secret Garden: Cast List (alphabetical order)

    • Jefferson Behan: Swing
    • Elizabeth Broadhurst: Rose/Understudy Lily
    • Carey Rebecca Brown: Lily
    • Stephen Cerf: Major Holmes
    • Brandon Contreras: Albert Lennox/Understudy Neville Craven
    • Liam Forde: Dickon
    • Jay Garcia: Fakir
    • Michael Halling: Dr. Neville Craven/Understudy Archibald Craven
    • Adam Heller: Ben Weatherstaff
    • Anakeesta Ironwood: Understudy Mary Lennox
    • Nancy Johnston: Mrs. Medlock
    • Avi Levin: Understudy Colin
    • Zoe Manarel: Mary Lennox
    • Kate Marilley: Alice/Mrs. Winthrop/Understudy Mrs. Medlock/Understudy Martha
    • Sean Palmer: Archibald Craven
    • Daniel Plimpton: Lt. Shaw/Understudy Dickon
    • Sean Reda: Colin Craven
    • Erin Rubico: Swing
    • Regina Steffen: Ayah
    • Emily Walton: Martha
    • Erin Willis: Claire Holmes/Jane/Understudy Rose Lennox

    Creative team:

    • Director: Jenn Thompson
    • Music Director: Gregg Coffin
    • Choreographer: Patricia Wilcox
    • Scenic Designer: Wilson Chin
    • Costume Designer: David Toser
    • Lighting Designer: Philip S. Rosenberg
    • Sound Designer: Zach Williamson
    • Projection Designer: Topher Blair
    • Voice and Dialect: Kathryn G. Maes
    • Dramaturg: Stephanie Prugh

    DSA students join 25th anniversary Secret Garden concert

  • 'The Secret Garden': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Mar 28, 2017
    The Secret Garden Jenn ThompsonJenn Thompson, photo by Hunter Canning courtesy The Actors Company Theatre of New York.



    It should be expected that the DCPA Theatre Company’s season-ending production of The Secret Garden will be gorgeous to look at. “But it can't just be beautiful for beauty's sake,” Director Jenn Thompson told cast, crew and visitors at last week’s first rehearsal. “It has to make emotional sense. It has to make sense for the story.” 

    A lot of time in pre-production, she said, has been spent in every design department addressing how to best assist the storytelling. “When we get to the finish, that ending has to be earned,” said Thompson, who was last here directing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike in 2014. “If it doesn't earn its place, it can't be here.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The DCPA Theatre Company has ended its past several seasons with a big musical, and Associate Artistic Director Charlie Miller said the priority this year was staging a family-friendly one. “This is story for all-time, but certainly a story for now,” Miller said. “The key idea at the heart of this story that 'hope is powerful magic.' Mary Lennox is an incredible character who overcomes grief and tragedy and really brings life to the new world that she is living in.”

    The Secret Garden has its first performance April 21 and runs through May 28 in the DCPA’s Stage Theatre.

    Here are five things we learned at first rehearsal:

    NUMBER 1The Secret Garden will continue the Denver Center’s expansion of its new closed-captioning pilot program for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences. The DCPA introduced 10 individual devices at Tribes in 2015. For The Secret Garden, 25 will be made available to audiences for the first time in the Stage Theatre - and at every performance (with 48 hours notice). Each individual closed-captioning device is fitted with a small video screen about the size of a cell phone. The device clips onto the seat in front of the audience member like a book light, but with privacy settings that don't distract surrounding audience members. Throughout the play, a live captioning operator sends the dialogue and other stage activity to these screens in real time. Interested audiences are asked to call 303-893-4100 to let the Denver Center know you are coming. The need for 48 hours notice is so that the DCPA can make sure a live captioning operator is present for that performance.   

    The Little Mermaid. Sean Palmer. Joan Marcus

    NUMBER 2This Denver Center cast is brimming with interesting connections. The magnificent Adam Heller, who plays the gardener Ben Weatherstaff, starred as the titular character in the Denver Center’s 2002 world-premiere musical The Immigrant opposite Jacqueline Antaramian, Walter Charles and Cass Morgan. That was a musical adaptation of the Denver Center’s 1985 world-premiere play by Mark Harelik of the same name – which Heller starred in when it finally landed off-Broadway in 2000.

    Secret Garden Zoe ManarelDenver Center audiences also will remember Sean Palmer (Archibald Craven) as Prince Eric from the 2007 pre-Broadway engagement of The Little Mermaid in Denver. Zoe Manarel (Mary Lennox) played Lavender in Matilda on Broadway.  Nancy Johnston, who played Rose's friend Alice and the headmistress Mrs. Winthropthe in the original Broadway production of The Secret Garden in 1991, is here playing Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper. Patricia Wilcox created the choreography for five ice-skating medalists at the three most recent Winter Olympics. She also choreographed the Broadway production of Motown the Musical that just visited Denver. Stephen Cerf, who plays Major Holmes, appeared in the Arvada Center’s 2013 musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

    Michael Halling was a member of the DCPA Theatre Company’s 2014 production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Erin Willis has appeared in The Christians, Frankenstein, All the Way, The 12 and A Christmas Carol. Jefferson Behan was in last year’s Sweeney Todd. Other returners include Avi Levin (Frankenstein and A Christmas Carol) and Kate Marilley (White Christmas). Regina Steffen (Ayah) has worked with the DCPA's Off-Center and has performed locally at Colorado Springs Theatreworks, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Theatre Aspen and Creede Repertory Theatre.


    The Secret Garden Adam Heller

     

    NUMBER 3The most-invoked term at the first rehearsal was surely “The Dreamers,” and that simply refers to the story’s lingering, well … dead people. And their presence will impact every aspect of the design. Because of these ghosts – and the prevalence of white military uniforms of the period, “the show is quite often done with a lot of white,” said Costume Designer David Toser. “Well, get that out of your heads for this production.” And for very good reasons. White, Toser said, tends to pull focus, especially in a “thrust” stage like The Stage Theatre, where the action comes out into the audience. “These men and women need to be able to disappear and let us really focus on the primary characters,” Toser  said. “If there were in white, our eyes would keep going back to the white. Hopefully by using toning and colors, we will keep attention where it needs to be.” (Look for more on this subject in an upcoming Costume Corner column.)

    NUMBER 4The Tony-nominated score is written by Lucy Simon, sister of pop star Carly Simon, and the great Marsha Norman. Music Director Gregg Coffin (Sweeney Todd) calls The Secret Garden a "plusical" - meaning half-play, half-musical. He describes the score as "beautifully lush" and drawing from many different musical sources, including Hindu music, indigenous English folk music and classical '90s power musicals. "There is music all the way through it, but while a good amount of it drives the play forward, a good amount of it is there to give you a feel and flavor," said Coffin. The DCPA staging will employ 10 live musicians, he added.

    NUMBER 5Some of the best first-day quotes:
    • “I believe that singing is just acting on pitch.” - Music Director Gregg Coffin
    • “Dance, at its best, is always storytelling in forward motion. – Choreographer Patricia Wilcox
    • "There is a phrase going around about how you might feel buried sometimes, when  really, you have been planted. I think that's where we are in the show. You might feel buried, but we’re planted, and we have a purpose." - Coffin

    Did you know?
    Bonus: Did you know John Cameron Mitchell, co-creator and original star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, originated the role of Dickon on Broadway? (He talks about it here.)

    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.


    The Secret Garden:
    Ticket information

    The Secret GardenThe beloved classic blossoms anew in this enchanting musical full of beautiful melodies. When young Mary uncovers the key to her late aunt’s long-lost garden, she becomes determined to revive the beauty that once flourished. Book and lyrics by Marsha Norman; music by Lucy Simon;
    based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett

    April 21-May 28
    Stage Theatre
    Denver Performing Arts Complex
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

     


    The Secret Garden: Cast List (alphabetical order)

    • Jefferson Behan: Swing
    • Elizabeth Broadhurst : Rose/Understudy Lily
    • Carey Rebecca Brown: Lily
    • Stephen Cerf: Major Holmes
    • Brandon Contreras: Albert Lennox/Understudy Neville Craven
    • Liam Forde: Dickon
    • Jay Garcia: Fakir
    • Michael Halling: Dr. Neville Craven/Understudy Archibald Craven
    • Adam Heller: Ben Weatherstaff
    • Anakeesta Ironwood: Understudy Mary Lennox
    • Nancy Johnston: Mrs. Medlock
    • Avi Levin: Understudy Colin
    • Zoe Manarel: Mary Lennox
    • Kate Marilley: Alice/Mrs. Winthrop/Understudy Mrs. Medlock/Understudy Martha
    • Sean Palmer: Archibald Craven
    • Daniel Plimpton: Lt. Shaw/Understudy Dickon
    • Sean Reda: Colin Craven
    • Erin Rubico: Swing
    • Regina Steffen: Ayah
    • Emily Walton: Martha
    • Erin Willis: Claire Holmes/Jane/Understudy Rose Lennox

    Creative team:

    • Director: Jenn Thompson
    • Music Director: Gregg Coffin
    • Choreographer: Patricia Wilcox
    • Scenic Designer: Wilson Chin
    • Costume Designer: David Toser
    • Lighting Designer: Philip S. Rosenberg
    • Sound Designer: Zach Williamson
    • Projection Designer: Topher Blair
    • Voice and Dialect: Kathryn G. Maes
    • Dramaturg: Stephanie Prugh

    DSA students join 25th anniversary Secret Garden concert

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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.