• Look back: 2018 Colorado New Play Summit got real

    by John Moore | Feb 26, 2018
    2018 Colorado New Play Summit

    Our gallery of photos above includes nearly 300 images from the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos Photos by Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and Adams Viscom.

    Readings explored contemporary social issues through the lens of real stories taken from the recent and distant past

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Perhaps more so than ever, the Denver Center’s 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit explored complex contemporary social issues through the lens of real stories taken from both the recent and distant past.

    Summit 2018 The Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, a forgotten pre-Civil War slave trial and a horrible, headline-grabbing drunk-driving tragedy were among the real-life inspirations for the Summit’s four featured readings, all of which become instant candidates for consideration to be fully staged in the future.  

    The Colorado New Play Summit has grown into one of the nation’s premier showcases of new plays. Since 2006, the Summit has workshopped 54 new plays, leading to 31 fully produced world premieres as part of the DCPA Theatre Company’s mainstage season. At this year’s Summit, more than 800 attendees also were treated to a record three fully staged world premieres: American Mariachi, The Great Leap and Zoey’s Perfect Wedding.

    But history of another kind was made on Saturday when the topic of gender identity was addressed on a Denver Center stage for the first time in its nearly 40-year history, and it came from a most unexpected source. A teenage boy uttered the words, “Dad, I’m non-binary” in high-schooler Noah Jackson’s play Wine Colored Lip Gloss during public readings of DCPA Education’s three statewide student playwriting competition winners.

    “It means so much to me that the Denver Center allowed my story to be heard,” said Jackson, who attends Girls Athletic Leadership School. “I had someone come up to me in tears saying that my play touched her so much. I am just over the moon that people are actually feeling the words that I have worked so hard on.”  

    2018 Summit: A look at all four featured plays

    The 2018 Summit came as DCPA Theatre Company leadership continues to transition from Summit founder Kent Thompson to incoming Artistic Director Chris Coleman, who told the Friday night crowd the Summit was “a great calling card” for the job he is about to embrace. “A festival like this is impossible at a lot of theatres around the country,” he said. “But new-play development is creativity at its most pure. There is enormous joy and heartache in watching something come out of nothing. And I want to be a part of the future of this organization's voice around the country.”

    (Story continues below the video)

    Video: Our interviews with all four featured playwrights

    Press play to watch all four of our short spotlight videos.


    The four featured Summit readings at a glance
    :

    • A Summit Playwrights Social Barbara Seyda’s Celia, A Slave recalls a 19-year-old African-American slave in Missouri who was convicted of killing her master in 1855 and hanged.
    • Kemp Powers’ Christa McAuliffe’s Eyes Were Blue is the story of mixed-race twins who are genetically the same but to the entire outside world, one is perceived as black, and one is perceived as white.
    • David Jacobi’s The Couches takes its cue from the real-life story of a 16-year-old Texas boy who drove drunk and killed four people. His lawyer successfully argued the boy had “affluenza" — meaning he was too rich to know right from wrong.
    • Sigrid Gilmer's Mama Metallica is the story of a woman who copes with her mother's dementia through her muse: The heavy-metal band Metallica. "What makes you laugh will make you cry," she said.

    “This is a precious and fragile time in the life of these plays and that's because they are reflecting life which is also so fragile, as we have learned in these past couple of weeks,” said Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett,” referring to the Florida school shooting. “And that's why it’s so important to support new work and nurture it and fund it and produce it and give it to the world. That's our responsibility: To keep life moving forward. And I like to think of the Summit as the beginning of that.”

    (Pictured at right: From 'Celia, A Slave', from left: Jada Dixon, Owen Zitek, Director Nataki Garrett, Celeste M. Cooper.)

    Celia A Slave. Summit. Photo by John MooreThe Colorado New Play Summit allows for two weeks of development of each new play, culminating in a first round of public readings. Playwrights then take what they learn from their first readings back into rehearsal before more rehearsal and a second round of readings for industry professionals.

    This year’s Summit drew industry leaders from 33 local and national theatre organizations, with more than 150 directors, actors, artistic leaders, educators and others from 12 states attending or taking part. Visitors represented companies ranging from the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington D.C. to the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. Closer to home, guests included the Arvada Center, Creede Repertory Theatre, Curious Theatre, The Catamounts, Athena Festival Project and others.

    There was another added twist at this year’s festival in that both American Mariachi and The Great Leap are the Theatre Company’s first co-productions in nearly 20 years — upon closing, both will set off for stagings at other theatres with their Denver creative teams intact.

    Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap is a Denver Center commission, meaning she was hired to write a play for the Theatre Company’s right of first refusal. She used her Asian-American father’s real-life goodwill basketball tour to China in the 1980s as the basis for exploring, among many other things, the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Her play was read at the 2017 Summit, premiered in January at the Denver Center and will re-open at the Seattle Repertory Theatre later in March.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “This play would not exist without the Denver Center,” Yee said. “Not just because it's a commission, but also because of the way that the Colorado New Play Summit launches you into national consciousness. This is an event that the whole new-play development world looks at every year for leadership and inspiration.”

    The Couches. Adams VisComJosé Cruz González’s American Mariachi was given a second full year to germinate before being fully staged. It was introduced at the 2016 Summit, then developed for two years before opening in January. The story of a pioneering young woman who forms an all-female mariachi band in a desperate attempt to use music to communicate with a mother falling into dementia struck a universal chord with Theatre Company audiences. It now moves to the Old Globe Theatre, which is Director James Vásquez’s artistic home, for a run in San Diego.  

    (Pictured: Tasha Lawrence and Cesar J. Rosado in 'The Couches.' Photo by Adams Viscom.)

    “The Denver Center has been so unbelievably supportive since the moment we got here,” Vásquez said. “It's been a dream. And I feel like the luckiest guy in the world that now I get to take the show home and share it with my family and friends in San Diego.”  

    Vásquez is particularly grateful the Summit coincided with the Denver run of American Mariachi, where it was seen by dozens of artistic leaders from around the country.

    “It's overwhelming and exciting to think of how many industry professionals saw our play here at the Summit,” said Vásquez. “We do this work so we can share it, and I want Jose's play to get out into the world. So if the other professionals want to take it, I say … ‘Go.’ ”

    One of those professionals is former longtime DCPA Theatre Company actor David Ivers, now the Artistic Director at the Arizona Theatre Company. He already has added American Mariachi to his season lineup for performance in March 2019.

    American Mariachi resonates in myriad ways with the kaleidoscope of our community,” Ivers said. “The writing, the gift of mariachi music, the celebration and empowerment of women, and the struggle of loss in the face of hope are powerful and meaningful messages to explore in the communities we have the honor of serving.”

    2018 Colorado New Play Summit Slam. Photo by John MooreThe Summit again included two late-night "Playwrights Slams," where writers sampled their developing works in a fun and supportive atmosphere. One focused on local playwrights and was curated this year by the Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

    (Pictured at right: Playwrights Slam reader Mfoniso Udofia. Others included José Cruz González, Ricardo A. Bracho, Denver native Max Posner and Luis Quintero. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    The Summit also included a gathering of the Women's Voices Fund, the Denver Center’s $1.5 million endowment that supports new plays by women and female creative team members. Since 2006, the Denver Center has produced 33 plays by women, including 14 world premieres, commissioned 19 female playwrights and hired 28 female directors Supporters of the fund were treated to a private gathering with 2018 featured playwright Sigrid Gilmer (Mama Metallica.)   

    The Summit ended on the same day the Denver run of American Mariachi closed. But unlike most other shows, closing day in Denver was just the start for the San Diego-bound cast and crew.

    “We’re leaving Denver,” said actor Amanda Robles. “But it doesn't feel like the end.”

    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.


    Christa McAuliffe's Eyes Were Blue
    From left: Cast members Tihun Hann, Celeste M. Cooper and Owen Zitek. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Selected NewsCenter coverage of the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit

    Summit Spotlight: Barbara Seyda's collision with voices of the dead
    Summit Spotlight: Kemp Powers on a matter that's black and white
    Summit Spotlight: David Jacobi on affluenza, the rich man's plague
    Summit Spotlight, Sigrid Gilmer: 'What makes you laugh will make you cry'
    Summit prep begins at the intersection of Eugene O'Neill and Metallica
    2018 Colorado New Play Summit selections announced
    Authentic voices: DCPA Education names 2018 student playwriting finalists

  • Lakewood High School's Tami LoSasso chosen for national advocacy leadership role

    by John Moore | Jan 26, 2018
    Tami LoSasso 2017 Bobby G Awards 2017. Photo by Emily Lozow.
    Lakewood High School's Tami LoSasso accepts her 2017 Bobby G Award for Outstanding Achievement in Direction last May at the Buell Theatre. Photo by Emily Lozow.

    Two-time Bobby G Award winner joins national grassroots initiative on behalf of theatre and other arts education

    Tami LoSasso, a two-time Bobby G Award-winning director and longtime theatre educator at Lakewood High School, has been selected as a member of the 2018 class of the Advocacy Leadership Network, it was announced today by the Educational Theatre Association in Cincinnati.

    That's a three-year pilot initiative started last year designed to train and empower members of the Educational Theatre Association in grassroots advocacy efforts on behalf of theatre and other arts education. Up to 10 representatives will be selected annually in a competitive process.
     
    Now in her 17th year of teaching, LoSasso has grown the program at Lakewood from two sections of theatre to a full offering ranging from introductory classes to advanced and I.B. Theatre, and a unified theatre program for students with special needs. Next year, she will introduce a slam poetry course for at-risk youth.

    Each year, Lakewood High School produces six shows including three full-length plays, one musical, one unified production, and student directed one-act plays.

    Last May, LoSasso earned her second Bobby G Award for Outstanding Achievement in Direction, for Sweeney Todd, with Yovana Milosevic. LoSasso also won in 2014 for Young Frankenstein, with Delaney Bohlen.

    Just two weeks ago, LoSasso's sophomore student Arianna Josue was named one of the 10 semifinalitsts for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' fifth annual statewide playwriting competition.
     
    LoSasso is in her third year as Chapter Director for Colorado Thespians and is an active voice of advocacy for theatre education in Colorado.

    EdTA is a national nonprofit organization with approximately 125,000 student and professional members that supports and promotes school theatre. The Educational Theatre Association is the home of the International Thespian Society, an honor society for middle and high-school theatre students, which has inducted more than 2.3 million members since 1929.
     
    The goal of the pilot program is to create an effective and self-sustaining network of advocates who monitor and share state-based arts education policies, legislation, and advocacy successes that can be modeled by others.
     
    “The concept of the Advocacy Leadership Network is based on the notion that networking can help resolve common and unique issues impacting theatre education, especially when you have trained and committed advocates," said James Palmarini, Educational Theatre Association director of educational policy. So, each year, as we add more states, we become stronger and more effective as veterans help to mentor new members.”
     

    Direction
  • Authentic voices: DCPA Education names 2018 playwriting finalists

    by John Moore | Jan 17, 2018
    scenesters_finalists_011618 800

    The winning plays, taking on a wide array of topical issues, will be read at the Colorado New Play Summit

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts today announced the finalists for its fifth annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition for Colorado high-school students:

    • Emmaleth Ryan, Grandview High School: Sleep No More, about a young woman who decides to commit suicide until she is reminded of the resilience of the human spirit. Says Ryan: “I learned more about how to grapple with life by writing a character who has fought her demons and won.” MEET EMMALETH
    • Julianna Luce and Trinell Samuel, Vista Peak Preparatory: Technical Difficulties is a comedy about a high-school theatre production that has been seized by vengeful understudies. Say the self-described techies: When the lights, sound or even just the ambience we help create draws ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the audience, it is mystical for us. It feeds the hunger of our inner artist.” MEET JULIANNA AND TRINELL
    • Noah Jackson, Girls Athletic Leadership School: Wine Colored Lip Gloss, about a teenager dealing with gender-identity problems and how to tell his parents about it. Says Jackson: “I learned how to take advice on social situations from my own characters, which actually helped me through a lot of problems I've faced.” MEET NOAH
    2017 Student Playwriting_John MooreAfter week-long workshops and mentoring from nationally acclaimed playwrights, the winning playwrights will have their scripts read by professional actors at the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, in The Conservatory Theatre. Finalists also receive a $250 cash scholarship and complimentary pass to all Summit activities.


    (Pictured: A reading of a student play at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    The finalists were chosen from a field of 153 submissions, after which 10 semifinalists were named. Director of Education Allison Watrous noted that the entries covered a much more substantive range of important topics this year, including sexual abuse, gender identity, suicide, homelessness, child abuse race relations and addiction.

    "We are so inspired by the quality and the depth of the writing this year," said Watrous. "These writers are exploring the fullest potential of the art form through their use of poetry and nuanced dialogue. These extraordinary playwrights are writing with distinct, authentic and brave voices. We are honored to nurture and empower these emerging voices of the American theatre."

    Starting last fall, DCPA Education faculty Finalists quote 2018 Scenesterstaught 146 playwriting workshops in 57 Colorado schools. A record 3,002 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 20 counties around the state. The subsequent submissions judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals.

    In addition to the Summit reading, each teacher of the finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms.

    After the Colorado New Play Summit, one of the three scripts will be selected for full production during DCPA Education’s 2018 summer program.

    “These young playwrights are the next generation of theatre. It is our responsibility and our privilege to encourage them and give them the tools to succeed,” Watrous said. “We launched the one-act play playwriting competition in 2013 to nurture Colorado’s promising young playwrights, create new plays and inspire creativity.

    "In just five years, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response: 730 submissions and more than 13,500 students served through the program, giving voice to the next generation of American theatre.”

    It's worth noting that at this time of pronounced gender disparity in the American theatre, the DCPA's statewide playwriting competition has, by a blind judging draw, produced 70 percent female semifinalists in its first five years (39 of 56.) 

    Our profiles of all 2018 Scenester semifinalists:

    In addition to the previously announced finalists listed above, the judges singled out two entries for honorable mention:
    • Los Amorios by Catalin Varela, Castle View High School
    • This Play is Literally Impossible to Perform by Caroline Storey, Compass Montessori High School
    The coordinator of the DCPA's  student playwriting program is 2017 True West Award winner Claudia Carson. The sponsors are Robert and Judi Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

    Video bonus: Last year's playwrights at the Colorado New Play Summit

    Video: We talked with the four 2017 student playwriting finalists whose plays were read by DCPA actors at the Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • The 2018 Scenesters: Emmaleth Ryan, Grandview High School

    by John Moore | Jan 16, 2018
    2018 The Scenesters Emmaleth Ryan

    Today on the DCPA NewsCenter, we continue our daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fifth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Wednesday, Jan. 17, we will announce the writers whose plays will be read at the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.)


    SCENESTER NO. 10: EMMALETH RYAN

    • Class: Senior
    • School: Grandview High School
    • Teacher: Brianna Lindahl
    • Your play title: Sleep No More
    • What is your play about? A girl is fighting demons both within and without herself, and she decides to end the battle by committing suicide. However, her course is interrupted by another young woman who reminds her of the resilience of the human spirit.
    • What was your inspiration for writing your play? I was inspired by the sudden influx of suicide-related media that I felt misrepresented or glorified depression and suicide (namely the TV show 13 Reasons Why and the song 1-800-273-8255 by Logic.) I've struggled with depression and I know many people who have fought against bullying, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. This play was written as an attempt to honor, but not glorify, that struggle. The title of my play was taken from a line in Macbeth: "Sleep no more, Macbeth does murder sleep." This reference was a vague parallel between Macbeth, who becomes a tyrannical king, and the tyrant of my play, as they both ruin the peace of the innocent.
    • Yara Shahidi ScenestersFavorite word that appears in your script: Visceral.
    • Killer casting: If I had any kind of influence, my first choice for playing the Princess would be Yara Shahidi. She is a known social activist, and I'm endlessly impressed by the way she uses her intelligence and popularity to promote social justice in spite of her youth. She is the type of person I hoped to exemplify when writing the Princess. Additionally, she seems like a wonderful person to work with, and she's gorgeous.
    • What did you learn from writing this play? Writing this play brought me a great deal of peace. I spent a long time in the mindset of the Warrior, who is intelligent and spirited but sunk too deep in her misery to truly see reality as it is. Her role wasn't difficult to write. Writing the Princess was far more challenging, as she is meant to be the inspiring antagonist to the Warrior's suicidal thoughts. In the play, she has been kicked around by the world, but her response was not to hide but to fight back. This response was enlightening to me, and I learned more about how to grapple with life by writing a character who has fought her demons and won.

    Video: Winning DCPA student playwrights' plays are performed

    Scenesters Quote Emmaleth Ryan

    About the 2017-18 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 146 playwriting workshops in 57 Colorado schools. A record 3,002 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 20 counties around the state.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 153 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2018.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of all 2018 Scenester semifinalists (to date):
    Video bonus: Last year's playwrights at the Colorado New Play Summit

    Video: We talked with the four 2017 student playwriting finalists whose plays were read by DCPA actors at the Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    A look back: Our profiles of all 10 of the 2017 semifinalists:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • The 2018 Scenesters: Callista Zaronias

    by John Moore | Jan 15, 2018
    A 2018 Scenesters Callista Zaronias 800

    Today on the DCPA NewsCenter, we continue our daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fifth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Wednesday, Jan. 17, we will announce the writers whose plays will be read at the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.)


    SCENESTER NO. 9: CALLISTA ZARONIAS

    • Class: Senior
    • School: Peak to Peak Charter School, Lafayette
    • Teacher: Kristie Letter
    • Your play title: Invisible Scars
    • What is your play about? It's about a woman who has been sexually abused and struggles with what it means in her current life. It shows the internal conflict with her conscience as she fights to come to terms with the abuse.
    • What was your inspiration for writing your play? Sexual abuse is a tragicjennifer-lawrence event and a much too common issue in today’s society. Many women are now voicing their stories of sexual abuse in the media. These women inspired me to help bring even more attention to sexual abuse. No one deserves to be abused, and no one should feel the need to keep quiet about it. Everyone deserves a voice, and I hope that my play can help others find their voice, too.
    • Favorite word that appears in your script: Naive.
    • Killer casting: I would cast Jennifer Lawrence as Nicole's Conscience because of her spunky humor, and her real and gritty personality.
    • What did you learn from writing this play? That creative expression can come in many different forms. I also learned that words can have different meaning when they're written versus when they are said, and that difference can make plays uniquely powerful.

    Video: Winning DCPA student playwrights' plays are performed

    2018 Scenesters Callista Zaronias quote


    About the 2017-18 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 146 playwriting workshops in 57 Colorado schools. A record 3,002 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 20 counties around the state.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 153 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2018.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of all 2018 Scenester semifinalists:
    Video bonus: Last year's playwrights at the Colorado New Play Summit

    Video: We talked with the four 2017 student playwriting finalists whose plays were read by DCPA actors at the Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • The 2018 Scenesters: Noah Jackson

    by John Moore | Jan 14, 2018
    2018 Scenesters Noah Jackson

    Today on the DCPA NewsCenter, we continue our daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fifth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Wednesday, Jan. 17, we will announce the writers whose plays will be read at the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.)


    SCENESTER NO. 8: NOAH JACKSON

    • Class: Senior
    • School: Girls Athletic Leadership School
    • Teacher: Amanda Flageolle
    • Your play title: Wine Colored Lip Gloss
    • What is your play about? A teenager named Lucca is dealing with gender-identity problems and how to tell his parents about it while his mother has her own issues with alcoholism.
    • What was your inspiration for writing your play? At first my play was inspired by my own struggles, but as it developed it strayed from that. Still, the underlying themes are based off things I have personally dealt with and was inspired by.
    • aubreyplazaFavorite word that appears in your script: Wonky!
    • Killer casting: I would cast Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) as Fey, not only because I love her with all of my soul, but because her sense of humor and style and sass would be perfect for Fey.
    • What did you learn from writing this play? A lot about myself. I learned how to take advice on social situations from my own characters, which actually helped me through a lot of problems I've faced. I've also learned that playwriting is a very, very long process.

    Video: Winning DCPA student playwrights' plays are performed

    2018 Scenesters quote noah jackson


    About the 2017-18 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 146 playwriting workshops in 57 Colorado schools. A record 3,002 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 20 counties around the state.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 153 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2018.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of all 2018 Scenester semifinalists:
    Video bonus: Last year's playwrights at the Colorado New Play Summit

    Video: We talked with the four 2017 student playwriting finalists whose plays were read by DCPA actors at the Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • The 2018 Scenesters: Julianna Luce and Trinell Samuel

    by John Moore | Jan 13, 2018
    2018 scenesters Julianna Luce and Trinell Samuel

    Today on the DCPA NewsCenter, we continue our daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fifth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Wednesday, Jan. 17, we will announce the writers whose plays will be read at the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.)


    SCENESTERS NO. 7:
    JULIANNA LUCE AND TRINELL SAMUEL

    • Class: Seniors
    • School: Vista Peak Prep High School, Aurora
    • Teacher: Heathe Stecklein
    • Your play title: Technical Difficulties
    • What is your play about? It's a comedy about a group of theatre students who encounter every techie's worst nightmare: Their show has been seized by vengeful understudies. This is a production that tests that old cliché “the show must go on.” With power from the Techie Gods, will these techies save their show?
    • What was your inspiration for writing your play? Two years ago, we were asked to write a one-act play together as a part of a theatre class. With little writing experience, we struggled for a long time to think of script ideas until we realized we should just write about what we knew. We are both technicians in the Vista Peak theatre department, and knew it was a unique atmosphere for storytelling. What does every techie fear? A bad show. We began to write, and thus came Technical Difficulties.
    • Favorite word that appears in your scriptPizzazz!
    • michael ceraKiller casting: We would cast Michael Cera as Todd because he perfectly exudes a corny, nerdy, and awkward kid while still being inexplicably lovable. You subconsciously want to protect him, but also want to see him be brave. These same personality traits shape our character Todd.
    • What did you learn from writing this play? We learned just how fun creating a story can be, and how it can help open your eyes to situations you never really think about. We learned that the starving/striving artist mindset can be very different for  actors as opposed to technicians. The love and the utter need to be on stage could drive an actor insane, while working being behind the scenes can make you feel as if your work is not being acknowledged. As techies, we wanted to explore those different mindsets in our play. We love the hidden aspect of our jobs. We love the idea that people who only come to see a play never see all the work that went into it backstage. But when the lights, sound or even just the ambience that we help create draws "oohs" and "aahs" from the audience, it is mystical for us techies. That might not seem like enough to an actor. But it feeds the hunger of our inner artist.

    Video: Winning DCPA student playwrights' plays are performed

    Scenesters 2018 Quote Technical Difficulties


    About the 2017-18 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 146 playwriting workshops in 57 Colorado schools. A record 3,002 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 20 counties around the state.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 153 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2018.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of all 2018 Scenester semifinalists:
    Video bonus: Last year's playwrights at the Colorado New Play Summit

    Video: We talked with the four 2017 student playwriting finalists whose plays were read by DCPA actors at the Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Winning DCPA student playwrights' plays performed

    by John Moore | Jul 13, 2017
    Video above: We talk with the two student playwrights whose works were fully staged by DCPA Education actors on June 11. 



    DCPA Education's fourth annual Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition is a one-act playwriting competition designed for Colorado high schools. Its mission is to help high-school writers find and cultivate their authentic voices.

    Each fall, local playwrights and DCPA Teaching Artists go out into schools statewide, conduct writing workshops and encourage students to submit one-act plays for the competition. This past year, 138 playwriting workshops were held in 46 Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 15 counties around the state.

    Student playwriting A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly. Ten were named as finalists. Four of those were chosen to be workshopped and have a staged reading at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit in February. In previous years, one play has then been chosen for a full summer production by DCPA Education’s summer teen company. But this year, competition officials chose to advance two scripts to full stagings. The winning plays were Dear Boy on the Tree, written by Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano of Vista Peak High School (pictured above), and Spilt Lava, written by Ryan McCormick of Fort Collins High School. Each play had two public performances on June 11 in the Conservatory Theatre.

    Video: Our report from the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit

    This video above includes interviews with the playwrights, Director Steven Cole Hughes and student actors Nathaniel Pagibigan, Madeleine Kee and Jacob Maki.

    For information on next year's competition, starting with school workshops in the fall of 2017, go to denvercenter.org/education.

    Video by David Lenk and Avery Anderson for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     


    Photo gallery: 2016-17 Student Playwriting

    2017 Student Playwriting

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are downloadable for free and may be used for personal and social purposes with credit. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
     

    2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition Sponsors:
    Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of all 10 of the 2017 semifinalists:
    Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School
    Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School
    Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School
    Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    Samantha Shapard, Overland High School
    Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    Daniela Villalobo, York International
    Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Authentic voices: 2017 student playwriting winners announced

    by John Moore | Apr 11, 2017
    Video: We talked with the four 2017 student playwriting finalists whose plays were read by DCPA actors at the Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Two student writers will have their one-act plays
    fully staged in public performances in June.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The mission of DCPA Education’s annual year-long student playwriting competition is to help high-school writers find and cultivate their authentic voices. And this year, for the first time, it has ultimately chosen to celebrate two.

    The winning plays of the fourth annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition are Dear Boy on the Tree, written by Jasmin Hernandez Lozano of Vista Peak Preparatory Academy in Aurora, and Spilt Lava, written by Ryan McCormick of Fort Collins High School. Both plays will be given full productions in June, performed by DCPA Education’s summer teen company.

    Teen Playwriting QuoteBoth plays feature young couples exploring connection in unusual places. In Spilt Lava, a boy and girl float across each other on doors in a world where the floor is made of burning lava. Dear Boy on the Tree is a gender-reversed take on Rapunzel, featuring a boy hiding in a tree who is trapped by his fear until a girl named Willow happens along.

    “At the DCPA, we know it is so important to cultivate young playwrights,” said Director of Education Allison Watrous. “That's what this program is all about.”

    Each fall, DCPA Teaching Artists go out into schools statewide, deliver playwriting workshops and encourage students to write and submit one-act plays for the competition. This year, those Teaching Artists went to 46 high schools and delivered 138 workshops for more than 2,800 students. “We really want to encourage teenagers to tell amazing stories and put their plays out in the world,” Watrous said.  

    This year, 132 one-act plays were received and judged blindly. In January, 10 were named as finalists. Of those, four were chosen to have a workshop and staged reading by DCPA actors at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit in February. The process mirrors exactly what happens to the four new plays featured by the DCPA Theatre Company at each Summit. “It's really the first time these students have an opportunity to hear the play on its feet with a cast of actors,” Watrous said. “That gives the playwright the opportunity to really fine-tune the play as it moves to its next stage of development.”  

    IStudent Playwriting Ryan McCormickn previous years, one play has been ultimately chosen for a full summer production. This year, competition officials chose to advance both Lozano and McCormick’s scripts to full stagings.

    Lozano, a first-generation American whose parents do not speak English, asked her brothers if she was hallucinating when she read the email telling her she had been named a finalist.

    “I started crying right then and there because it was so emotional,” said Lozano. “Then my mom heard me crying and she said, 'What's happening? What's happening?' I explained everything to her in Spanish and then we all started crying, because we're a family of criers.

    Teen Playwriting Jasmin Hernandez LozanoLozano, who wrote her play in English, was born in a neighborhood “where I had a lot of limits,” she said, “so I would never assume I could win something like this. I don't have a family that has won a lot of awards. So winning this is one step toward getting out of that stereotype that Hispanic people can’t achieve as much as other people.”

    McCormick, now a senior, also was a top-10 finalist his sophomore year. He wrote Spilt Lava in part “because there was a girl I was trying to convince to date me, and she was reluctant,” he said. He credits the DCPA and his teachers for giving him the creative confidence to set his unlikely play on a floor of lava.

    “I've been working on it for a while, so it went through different phases,” he said. “As I got to higher English classes in high school, we started learning about postmodernism and the idea that if everyone believes something, then that is its own reality - and the lava floor is a perfect example of that. I wrote a love story where the floor happens to be lava.”

    Student Playwriting Allison WatrousThe winning plays will be performed back-to-back twice at 1:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, June 16, in the DCPA’s Conservatory Theatre. Admission is free, and the public is welcome. Both will be directed by actor and published playwright Steven Cole Hughes.

    The other finalists were Parker Bennett of Fossil Ridge High School (Counting in Clay and Jessica Wood of Denver Christian School (Chill Winds). Wood is the first student in the competition's history to advance to the Colorado New Play Summit twice.

    “It was such an amazing experience last year to be able to see my play go through the workshop process and then have a staged reading,” said Wood. “I was so excited to come back and to experience that again. Programs like this just don't exist in very many places.”

    The four finalists each received personal mentoring from a professional playwright at the Summit, culminating in public readings that were attended by their families and friends alongside theatre professionals from all around the country. Last year, Wood was mentored by Lauren Yee, whose play Manford at the Line was developed at the 2017 Summit and will be fully staged as part of the DCPA Theatre Company’s next mainstage season.

    “It was so amazing to be able to meet with someone who actually makes a living from playwriting,” Wood said of Yee. “Just to hear her say, 'Your play was really good' was an incredible feeling for me.”

    Student Playwriting Allison WatrousMcCormick said advancing as far as the Summit was all he could have hoped for. “To come here and just be able to rub shoulders with professionals and just be a part of this whole Summit has been crazy,” he said.

    In addition, each teacher of the four finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. And as an added bonus, the DCPA will publish all four of the finalists’ plays.

    “We do that so we can continue to create a volume of the plays each year and to really commemorate this work,” Watrous said. “Now these writers are now all published playwrights, which is very exciting.”

    Some of the 132 participating students may become professional playwrights someday. But the greater goal, Watrous said, is to advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication, which are skills that can help them in all aspects of their adult lives.


    Photo gallery: 2016-17 Student Playwriting

    2017 Student Playwriting

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are downloadable for free and may be used for personal and social purposes with credit. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
     

    2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition Sponsors:
    Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of all 10 of the 2017 semifinalists:
    Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School
    Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School
    Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School
    Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    Samantha Shapard, Overland High School
    Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    Daniela Villalobo, York International
    Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School
  • Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit

    by John Moore | Jan 17, 2017
    A Playwriting Scenester finalists 800Meet your 2017 Scenesters: Teen playwriting finalists (from left) Parker Bennett, Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Ryan Patrick McCormick and Jessica Wood.



    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts has announced a record four finalists for its fourth annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition for Colorado high-school students:

    • Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School, Counting in Clay MEET PARKER
    • Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School, Chill Winds MEET JESSICA
    • Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School, Spilt Lava MEET RYAN
    • Jasmin Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak Preparatory Academy, The Boy on the Tree
      MEET JASMIN

    Because of a tie, an unprecedented fourth finalist was named. The four will receive mentoring from a professional playwright and have their plays read by professional actors at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, in The Conservatory Theatre. Finalists also receive a $250 cash scholarship and complimentary pass to all Summit activities.

    A Playwriting Scenester finalists QuoteWood is the first student in the competition's history to place as a finalist two years in a row. Two of the finalists come from different high schools in Fort Collins. The finalists' plays represent a wide swath of storytelling ranging from a gender-bending variation on Rapunzel, to a modern take on Frankenstein, to a historical drama about sisters on the eve of World War II, to the love story of a boy and girl “who float across each other in a world where the floor is lava.”

    DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals first determined 10 semifinalists from  132 submissions received from high-school students across the state. The blind judging produced a first - twins sisters Sarah and Samantha Shapard of Overland High School both made the top 10.

    From that field, a record  four finalists were chosen, up from three in previous years. After the Colorado New Play Summit, one of the four scripts will be selected for full production during DCPA Education’s 2017 summer program.

    “These young playwrights are the next generation of theatre. It is our responsibility and our privilege to encourage them and give them the tools to succeed,” said DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous. “We launched the one-act play playwriting competition in 2013 to nurture Colorado’s promising young playwrights, create new plays and inspire creativity. In just four short years, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response: 577 submissions and nearly 12,000 students served through the program, giving voice to the next generation of American theatre.”

    About the 2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 138 playwriting workshops in 46 Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 15 counties around the state, including Gunnison, Garfield, El Paso, Chaffee and Ouray.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2017.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of the 2017 Semifinalists:
    Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School
    Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School
    Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School
    Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    Samantha Shapard, Overland High School
    Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    Daniela Villalobo, York International
    Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School


    Video: We talked with the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and looked in as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. </p?>
  • The 2017 Scenesters: Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll

    by John Moore | Jan 09, 2017
    Scenesters Corinna Donovan Walker Carroll
    Today at the DCPA NewsCenter, we continue our daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fourth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Jan. 13, we will announce the three scripts that will be read at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.) Tuesday: Scenester profile No. 7.


    SCENESTERS NO. 6:
    CORINNA DONOVAN AND WALKER CARROLL

    • School: Crested Butte Community School
    • Class: Juniors
    • Teacher: Laura Daniels
    • Your play title: As We Know It
    • What is your play about? It's about a Utopian island society that has been living in the same way for centuries. When pirates arrive on the island, chaos breaks loose and traditions are broken. The natives and pirates go to war because of a misunderstanding and nonacceptance. However, many lessons are learned, and boundaries are redefined. 
    • What was your inspiration for writing your play? The clash between the Native Americans and settling Europeans inspired our idea for this play. We had just completed a unit on Native American studies in our class.
    • A Scenesters James FrancoFavorite word that appears in your script: "Plethora." 
    • Killer casting: In a perfect world, we would have James Franco, because his personality and acting skills encompass what we envision Star to be.
    • What did you learn from writing this play? Writing this play together taught us teamwork. Overall, we learned how to put ourselves in our characters' shoes, which gave the play a more realistic feel. We also learned how to write a story and get our point across through dialogue.

    Scenesters Quote


    Our countdown of the 2017 'Scenesters' (to date):
    No. 1: Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    No. 2: Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School

    No. 3: Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    No. 4: Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    No. 5: Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School

    About the 2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 138 playwriting workshops in 46 Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 15 counties around the state, including Gunnison, Garfield, El Paso, Chaffee and Ouray.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2017.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Video: We talked with the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and looked in as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video, story: Stirring the passions of student writers ... and future engineers

    by John Moore | Jun 07, 2016

    In the video above, we interview the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and look at performance excerpts as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The DCPA's third annual year-long Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition will culminate Friday, June 17, with two free, fully staged performances of student playwright Kendra Knapp’s Sonder in the Denver Center's Conservatory Theatre.

    Last fall, DCPA Education staff conducted 145 classroom workshops for 3,100 Colorado students. That resulted in 212 one-act play submissions from young writers all over the state - up from 158 the year before. A team of professional adjudicators determined 10 semifinalists. Of those, three were selected to have their plays workshopped by the DCPA Education staff and read by professional actors at the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit in February. They were:

    Knapp, a recent graduate of Valor Christian High School, was a top-10 finalist last year. This year, her newest play was singled out for full production. Sonder follows a community of young people who are seeking real connection, but from the safety and distance of the internet.


    Our complete Student Playwriting photo gallery:

    2016 Student Playwriting Competition
    Photos from rehearsal through performances of the three finalist readings at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, click the 'forward' arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Knapp said it was “super exciting” to get into the top 10 last year, and decided it was worth doing again. “When I got in the top three, I figured there’s really no worst-case scenario for me," she said.

    DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous said the purpose of the teen writing initiative is to advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    Teen playwriting quote“This program is all about inspiring the passion of playwriting in the next generation of writers,” she said. But playwriting promotes a variety of life skills, no matter what profession they one day choose. Knapp, for example, is headed to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., where she will study aerospace engineering. “But I will probably still be writing, too,” Knapp said.

    Submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and educational professionals. The three finalists each receive a cash scholarship of $250. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists receives a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms.

    Knapp’s play was then further selected for a full production this summer. The staging will be directed by DCPA Education Head of Acting Tim McCracken and performed by actors from the DCPA's summer education classes.

    At a time when much of the national theatre dialogue is focused on the lack of fair female representation among American playwrights, it was telling that all three of the student finalists are young women.

    I think that‘s great, especially because it was picked blind," said Wood, a rising senior at Denver Christian School. "We know we were not being picked just because we are women - we were picked because we have talent, and we have abilities, and it’s great that the DCPA is helping us realize this."

    Added Moore: "I really appreciate the DCPA for not feeling the need to fill a quota, and that we’re being appreciated for our talent, no matter what age or gender or background we come from."

    Another commonality the three finalists share is faith. Two of the writers attend faith-based schools - Valor Christian and Denver Christian - and the third writer (Moore) wrote her play about a young woman who goes on a meaningful search to understand how God’s fallen angel came to be known as the Devil.
    Student Playwrights Sonder

    From left: Student playwriting finalists Kendra Knapp, Jessica Wood and Gabrielle Moore. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The finalists found it refreshing that the adjudicators were clearly open to stories with a religious theme, which is not always the case in the theatre.

    “I think there are certain stigmas about both the theatre and the church,” said Wood. “On the surface, they seem opposed to each other, but I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I think it’s really cool that you can be a member of the church and still be a writer in the theatre, which isn’t something a whole lot of people think you can do.”

    Moore was worried that making the Devil a central character in her play might be taken the wrong way. "Offending people was not the goal at all,” she said. “I wanted to tell a side of the story we typically don’t hear in church. I’ve heard pastors tell us that we need to avoid the Devil - but I’ve never really understood why."

    Reserve your free seat to see Sonder

    Knapp’s play has no religious overtones but she says she’s used to facing prejudice as a woman, a Hispanic, a person of faith and a theatre kid. “I’m used to people meeting me and then having this taste in their mouth where they go, “You’re from a Christian school? And you're into theatre?” I’m used to that attitude. But then I come here to the Denver Center and they just say, “OK, let’s get to work.” And I’m like, “Wait, you’re not going to ask me about my political views? Where’s the interrogation?”

    Each finalist was mentored during the Colorado New Play Summit in February by a commissioned playwright with the Denver Center Theatre Company: Rogelio Martinez (Knapp), Anne García-Romero (Moore) and Lauren Yee (Wood), all of whom are developing new plays for the DCPA’s right of first refusal.

    “Rogelio had some ideas and insights for the play that hadn’t been presented to me by any other voice,” said Knapp. "It’s just a really good feeling to get feedback from someone you know is established who says to you genuinely, 'This is good.' ”

    Student Playwrights Sonder
    The cast and creative teams from the three student playwriting readings at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The three finalists and their plays are featured in the video report at the top of this page. Here are additional excerpts from their conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore:

    John Moore: What did you think when you found out you were in the top three?

    Gabrielle Moore: My mom told me I had to look at this email because it was really important. And I was like, “Mom you’re probably misinterpreting it. They’re probably just saying, ‘Thank you for your submission’ - not that I actually won. When I read it, I was genuinely amazed.

    Jessica Wood: When I found out I was in the top three, I was really excited, because I put quite a lot of work into it. To see my work realized and accepted meant a whole lot. It was really great.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Kendra Knapp: I showed the email to my dad and he was like, “Wow, that’s super exciting!” And then I had this sudden moment of dread where I was like, “Oh gosh, I’m going to have to actually talk to people. No! I have to put on a dress! I can’t just sit in my pajamas all day!"

    John Moore: How did it help your writing to work with a director from the DCPA Education team?

    Jessica Wood: Shortly after I was selected, Mr. (Steven Cole) Hughes sent me some notes that said he liked my play, but there definitely were places where we can improve it. So I made some changes before I even went into rehearsal. Then I met my wonderful director (Allison Watrous), all of my actors, and they’re all great. We sat down and read the whole play through, and I said, “OK, I can definitely see some structural weaknesses.” So I changed my play - and then the next day, I changed it again. I think I had a rewrite every single day. And by the time we were done, I got to understand the whole feeling of the play. I got to learn how to best impact the ears of the audience, what sounds pleasing and what doesn’t, and really what makes for a good script.

    John Moore: What was it like to see a professional reading of your work?

    Gabrielle Moore: Starting out with an idea a year ago and getting to watch it develop into being on the stage was incredible. Even though there were some rewrites, my director Patrick (Elkins-Zeglarski) ensured me that I know what’s best for this play, that this is my authentic voice, and I could put in whatever I want, to an extent. It was nice to know that this is still my play, even though the DCPA has been nice enough to take care of it for me.

    John Moore: What was it like to hear audience responses for the first time?

    Jessica Wood: When the the lights went down for my play, I just felt this moment of sudden, sick dread because I was convinced that everyone would hate it. It’s really terrifying when you have a live audience because you don’t know how they’re going to react. You don’t know if they’re going to connect. You don’t know if they are going to be bored out of their minds. And if that happens, you’re to blame for that. But they were great. They were kind, they were polite, they laughed, and hopefully they cried a little bit.

    John Moore: How is this whole experience emboldening you?

    Gabrielle Moore: I learned a lot about myself through the writing process, especially through my character, Teresa. Because I’ve had trouble understanding everything I need to know about being a Catholic. And writing this play really helped because I did a lot of research on Mother Teresa. She said a lot of times when she prayed, she wasn’t sure if God was always there. But that didn’t stop her from doing good things and being a good person. I think she’s such an amazing woman to do that. I just want to keep being a good person and being a good writer and impact other people to do good through plays like this.

    Jessica Wood: I definitely think there’s a bit of a look that you get from adults when you tell them you write. They say, “Do you, really?” And then here comes this opportunity at the Denver Center where they say, “Yes, you are a writer. Now why don’t you give us some of your writing and let us help you make it better?”

    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.

    Sonder: Performance information
    1:30 and 7 p.m., Friday, June 17
    Conservatory Theatre in the Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education 1101 13th St.
    This performance is free, but an RSVP is requested by clicking here 

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of the Student Playwriting Competition:
    2016 finalists named for Regional High School Playwriting Competition
    2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices
    Denver Center launches statewide high-school playwriting initiative
    Direct link to our Flickr photo gallery


    Our complete countdown of 2016 semifinalists:
    No. 1: Jafei Pollitt, Denver School of the Arts
    No. 2: Jessica Wood, Denver Christian High School
    No. 3: Kristine Guo, Peak to Peak Charter School
    No. 4: Gabrielle Moore, D'Evelyn High School
    No. 5: Ashley Wright and Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    No. 6: Kalina Gallardo, Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
    No. 7: Kiera Eriksen-McAuliffe, Denver School of the Arts
    No. 8: Stephanie Kiel and Mady McGraw, Chatfield Senior High School
    No. 9: Kendra R. Knapp, Valor Christian High School
    No. 10: Jacob Kendrick, Peak to Peak Charter School

     

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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.