Video: The making of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” Part 3: “Life Sucks”

Part 3: Life Sucks

Part 3: “Life Sucks” follows Ben Dicke to the hospital emergency room after he was severely injured in a freak backstage accident. Photo by John Moore

Veteran arts journalist John Moore followed the making of Ben Dicke’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” from inception to an opening night postponed by a serious backstage accident that hospitalized the director, who also happens to be the starring actor. Part 3: “Life Sucks” (a quote from the show) follows Dicke to the hospital emergency room. Photo by John Moore. Running time: 7 minutes.
Here is a link to Part 1: Before the Fall
Here is a link to Part 2: The Perfect Mission
Here is a link to Part 3: Life Sucks
Here is a link to Part 4: This Is Happening
Here is a link to Part 5: Jackson Has It Going On
Performance information:
Where:Aurora Fox studio theater, 9900 E. Colfax Ave.

Times:  7:30 Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $25-$30
Contact: 303-739-1970 or the aurora fox’s home page

Deceased actor Johnny Lewis’ 2007 Boulder stay: “Seeking solitude in a modern world”

Johnny Lewis at the time of his stay in Boulder in 2007.


By John Moore

Sept. 29, 2012


Johnny Lewis, the “Sons of Anarchy” star who was found dead in a driveway near Hollywood on Wednesday after allegedly murdering his 81-year-old landlady and her cat, performed in a play with his friends in Boulder in 2007, and at that time he agreed to a promotional interview with me while I was working for The Denver Post.

Just days after he was released from jail for trying to break into a woman’s bedroom window last February, police say Lewis went on a rampage Wednesday morning, killing his landlady before plunging to his own death from a roof or wall. He was 28, having descended from a promising Hollywood career and boyfriend of Katy Perry to a sordid life of petty crime, financial  trouble, homelessness, suspected drug abuse and mental illness.

Lewis appeared in 26 episodes of “Sons of Anarchy” in 2008-09 as Kip “Half-Sack” Epps. His final movie was this year’s “186 Dollars to Get Out.” Lewis, who had strong ties to the Church of Scientology, was also waging a custody battle for his daughter at the time of his death.

In May, Lewis’ probation officer filed a report stating: “The defendant will continue to be a threat to any community he may reside [in].”

That wasn’t at all the 23-year-old Lewis we saw during his brief stint in Boulder in 2007. Lewis, who had just wrapped “Aliens vs. Predator 2” at the time, was in Boulder at the behest of director Jamie Wollrab, a 1995 graduate of Boulder High School. Wollrab brought pals Lewis, Shannon Woodward (“Raising Hope”), Justin Chatwin (“War of the Worlds”) and Zach Shields (“The Most Beautiful Thing”) to Boulder to present the black comedy “The Mistakes Madeline Made” at the Dairy Center.

Lewis, for one, was happy to temporarily trade the glare and glam of Hollywood for the artistry of Boulder. “You don’t have celebrities, but you also don’t care, which is awesome,” Lewis told me. “People get strangely obsessive about it in L.A.”

Lewis was an easy sell to come to Boulder. Two of his best friends are from Fort Collins, “and while they didn’t like Fort Collins, they said they love Boulder,” he joked.

“I wanted to get out of L.A., and I wanted to do theater,” he said. “Boulder felt like a more positive place to do it in. We’re kind of sick of (always) being around actors.”

Lewis was like a lot of twenty-somethings. “We don’t love theater,” he said bluntly, including co-star Woodward in his assessment. “We love great theater.” He said he thought “Madeline” was great theater that would appeal to the younger generation because it’s about them.

It’s the story of a young woman named Edna wrestling with her brother’s death and a mind-numbing first job who develops a fear of bathing.  It was written by  Elizabeth Meriwether, then 25.

“This is a play that I feel so connected to,” Lewis said. “It is about youth. It deals with a lot of big issues. It touches on Iraq. It touches on war. It touches on a lot of societal issues. But it mostly reflects on the personal aspects of that. Things like solitude in a modern world, to use a cliche. But it is a young play. I don’t want to use  ‘hip,’ but it’s definitely more for the younger generation. It’s about them.”

Acting coach Greta Seacat, who also performed in the play, called Edna a sensitive, feeling character who, like many kids just out of college, feels trapped in an environment that’s not very nourishing.

In retrospect, she may as well have been talking about Lewis.

“That’s what a lot of young people coming out of college are dealing with in our culture,” she said. “These are big issues: Iraq, the workforce, death, loss, loneliness, addiction, obsession, values, neurosis, pathos. That is the 20s experience now.

“The play asks, ‘How does one live with what’s going on in the world today?”‘



The average price of a live theater ticket in Colorado is …

Those “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at the Arvada Center are charging the top ticket price in town. Photo by P. Switzer.


By John Moore

Sept. 28, 2012

Earlier today, I solicited comment from Facebook followers on my anecdotal observation that the fall theater season in Colorado seems to be off to a sure-no-fire start. Some of the most anticipated new works of the fall appear to be playing to houses that are far more empty than full. The last four plays I have attended have averaged 22 people each.

A check of the Denver Center’s website shows that almost 500 tickets remain available tonight for its three homegrown offerings (“Fences,” “The Three Musketeers” and “Love, Perfect, Change”) on what should be a crowded Friday fall night at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.  That doesn’t even account for a half-empty Buell Theatre hosting the touring production of “Stomp.”

Readers offered many intriguing possible reasons, including campaign burnout. But the leader, far and away, was a timeless culprit: It’s just too expensive in this stagnant economy. I’ve been a theater critic since 2000, so I’ve never done this when it hasn’t been a down economy. So surely there is more to it than that. But before we address other potential factors, let’s take a look at that No. 1 (with a killer bullet) reason offered.

I polled every theater that is offering a live theater production on this very night, and it turns out the average price for an adult ticket among the 40 companies is $33.18. That’s showing up at the door, with no advance discount.

That is somewhat inflated by the seven companies that offer dinner with a show (at an average of $49.71). Taking the dinner shows out, the cost to see a play or musical is still a hefty $29.67.

And theater companies will tell you that your ticket price typically pays for less than half of what it actually costs them to bring you their entertainment.

Some numbers jump out from this list: That the Arvada Center’s LOW ticket price is equal to the MOST expensive dinner-theater ticket ($59). Also becoming a major factor in same-day ticket buying these days is “dynamic pricing,” where companies drive up the cost of their precious last few remaining seats as demand rises – and curtain-time approaches. But with crowds way down at the Denver Center — “The Three Musketeers” opened just last night in the Stage Theatre, and tonight there are more than 250 available seats, according to the Denver Center’s web site, as of 3 p.m. today.

Personally, I’d love it if theater companies went more toward RUSH ticketing discounts in the hours before a show begins, rather than trying to maximize every last penny whenever the market allows for it. Does dynamic pricing make for long-term customers? I doubt it. Would $15 RUSH tickets for “Fences”? Possibly.

I also think this list bears out just how hard it is for commercial theaters to compete with the erroneously named “non-profit” theaters, when the only distinction between the two is that commercial theaters don’t qualify for public funding, and donations to them aren’t tax-deductible. More on that subject here.

I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on pricing, but I also want to impart some of the other factors readers offered up about this issue. So for now, here is the breakdown of ticket prices, and I’ll leave pricing at that. Please submit your own conclusions in response.

TICKET PRICES FOR CURRENTLY RUNNING PRODUCTIONS (listed in descending max-price order):

1. Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” $59-$73 (musical)
2. National touring production of “Stomp” $26-$62 (live music)
3. Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” $48-$58
4. Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” $47-$57
5. Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” $18-$44
6. Denver Center Attractions’ “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” $40 (musical)
6. Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” $20-$40 (musical)
8. Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Gypsy” $30-$37 (musical)
9. TheatreWorks’ “The Glass Menagerie” $16-$35
10. Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Threepenny Opera” $30.50-$34.50 (musical)
11. Rocky Mountain Rep’s “The Marvelous Wonderettes” $30 (musical)
11. Ben Dicke’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” $25-$30 (musical)
13. OpenStage’s “Wit” $16-$27
13. Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” $22-$26
15. Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules” $18-$25
15. The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl” $22-$25
15. Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names” $25
18. Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” $5-$24
19. Abster Productions’ “August Osage County” $20-$23
20. Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure” $18-$22
20. Thunder River’s “Ghost-Writer” $12-$22
22. Evergreen Chorale’s “The Sound of Music” $14-$21 (musical)
23. LIDA Project’s “Add it Up” $18-$20
23. Thingamajig’s “The Last Five Years” $20
23. Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” $20
23. The Edge’s “Boom” $20
23. Su Teatro’s “La Carpa Aztlan presents: I Don’t Speak English Only” $17-$20 (live music)
28. Backstage’s “The Belle of Amherst” $18
28. Curtain Playhouse’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” $15-$18
30. Thin Air Theatre Company’s “Greater Tuna” $9.50-$15.50
31. Star Bar Players’ “God of Carnage” $6-$15
31. Colorado Actors Theatre’s “Rumors” $10-$15
33. Shack Over There’s “Mafia Macbeth” $12
Average max price: $29.67

Dinner theaters
1. Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights” $49-$59 (musical)
1. Dinner Detective’s “Murder Mystery Dinner Show” (at Midtown) $59
3. Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s “Fiddler on the Roof” $29.50-$57.50 (musical)
4. Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q” $40-$56 (musical)
5. Adams Mystery Playhouse’s “Welcome to Murder Mortuary” $42
6. Heritage Square Music Hall’s “American Idols” and “Under the Gaslight” $39.50 (musical)
7. Jester’s Dinner Theatre’s “My Fair Lady” $25-$35 (musical)
Average max price: $49.71
Totals: $33.18

Here are selected reader comments:

Geoffrey Kent: Election years are tough. Nothing like constant economy talk to get people to tighten purse strings.

Jim Honiotes: One man’s opinion: Too many theater companies competing for patrons. Numerous groups have started up in the last year, just as others (some biggies) have closed. God bless the hearts of these theater folks who dream big. But there are too few hard-nosed business types really grinding the numbers and saying, “Man, this just isn’t gonna work.” We lead with our dreams and hearts and choose to ignore the stark realities.

Stacy Christine: I agree there may be too many theaters. I’ve got 23 bookmarked, which isn’t all of them, and if each averages four or five shows a year, that’s a lot to choose from. Many shows will be ignored just because the market is saturated. Script selection is also bizarre. Some might want to consider balancing artistic risk-taking with the economic environment. Practically, is this the right time to stage something that is going to be a hard sell to begin with? Shows can also be expensive. Though Curious generally delivers, I’m hesitant to pay more than $30 anywhere else. The average theatergoer might be less likely to pay a lot for a small show when they could see a big touring production for $50 or $60 (my ticket to “Stomp” last night was only $25). I see about 50 shows a year, and have no problem attending the risky shows. But, the theaters need to understand that those risks, while artistically satisfying, may well result in a house that sits two-thirds empty. This past year, I most enjoyed shows at Curious, Vintage, Spark, and Town Hall. Fences at the Denver Center was stunning.

Sarah McAfee: Parenthood. I also wonder if the combination of heat, economy, election politics, overwhelming choices and general busy-ness are just all combining to lead the general public (myself included) into such exhaustion that they want nothing more than to stay home and hide from the world.

Don DeVeux: Time and money, plus, sometimes, subject matter. If you look historically, certain shows do well during down-times because people want to escape. Other shows do well during prosperous times because people feel the need to examine other parts of their lives and the world around them.

Becky O’Rourke: So many shows, too little time! Add to that all the high-school productions (that hold kids hostage and gobble up many weekends). The best-laid plans… Also, not to offend, but when Big Head Todd pulls a standing-room crowd at Red Rocks vs. Idina Menzel’s 5,000 – that would seem to indicate a “different” kind of audience around town.

Amber Marsh: PHAMALY’s (Denver’s handicapped theater company) audiences have been dishearteningly small. I think people are getting ground down with too much to do. They are overscheduling themselves, and their kids too.

Chris Woolf: Impulse Theater crowds have actually been somewhat decent (around 60 last night) even when we’ve been rocking the same format for 25 years. Viva la improv!

Pat Payne (Spotlight Theatre): I can tell you Spotlight just closed “Murder on the Nile,” and we had one of our highest-grossing shows ever. Played to 90-plus houses for our final three performances.

Becca Farrell Fletcher: Personally, the economy. There are at least two or three shows every weekend I’d go see if I had the means. These days, I’m lucky if I get in a show every other month. It would be easy to just say “ticket prices,” but there are a LOT of really reasonably priced tickets out there. I can’t afford Denver Center or Arvada Center prices, but that leaves wide-open hundreds of shows that are reasonably priced. Sadly it comes down to “theater tickets … or feed my kids.” Kids win every time. Almost.

Dave Dahl: My answer is “all of the above.” Audiences remind me of the old joke where the king sends for his court playwright and says, “Give me something new … but not TOO new. Give me something funny … but not TOO frivolous. Give me something dramatic … but not TOO tragic.” I think audiences are getting tired of the old plays that sell, but are wary of new works too. So it’s this weird balancing act. Companies are sort of pinched to make their best guess.

Carol Steinberg Wolf: It does not matter what the reviews are for shows, the audiences don’t seem to be there.

Rebecca Salomonsson: For me it’s the simple fact that I can rarely afford tickets and a babysitter for my kids. I never see the big shows that come through because of the exorbitant prices, and even a night out at the smaller theaters costs $50-$60 dollars with tickets and babysitting. I see everything I can when I can get comps or major discounts.

Paige Price: The election! No one can get their message heard through all the bile out there. Especially in (swin-state) Colorado. The only ones doing well are the advertising sales folks.

Susan Lyles (And Toto Too theater company): As a parent, it’s an expensive night out. Tickets plus a sitter (charging a minimum of $10 per hour). As a friend and a producer, that’s why we offer cheap date-night ticket prices and haven’t raised our prices since 2005.

Marcia Polas: I agree with the election-year comments. But I’ll also suggest that I’m not sure the right methods are being used to reach new audiences and drive them to the theater. This might include cross-marketing, and finding ways to get existing fans/patrons to do word-of-mouth marketing and bring newcomers to the party. But I also believe there are potential young audiences who, if communicated with in the right manner (message and vehicle), will become regular patrons.

Carla Kaiser Kotrc: Ticket prices. I went to four shows two weekends ago. It cost me almost $200.

Paul A. Page: Ticket prices and Broncos season.

Ken Paul (“August: Osage County”): I wondered if everyone spent all of their money to see “The Book of Mormon.”

Clint Heyn: I wonder if there is a way to show audiences that, when looking at total date night, live theater can be the same cost as a movie, when one can pay much less for concessions at many small theaters.

Jack Wefso (“Picasso at the Lapin Agile”): Plus, taking a date to the (live) theater is WAY classier than the movies.

Tricia Moreland: I’m in “The Sound of Music” with the Evergreen Chorale right now. It’s directed by Bernie Cardell. We are half-way through the run, and two of the last six shows are sold-out. The other four are getting close. I know it’s a family show, so maybe that makes a difference, but a lot of people have been excited to come see us.

Jennifer M Koskinen: I’ve noticed and wondered about this, too … And there are so many fantastic shows right now! This season’s lineup at the Denver Center is fantastic with such diverse material between “The Three Musketeers,” “Fences” and “The Giver.”


… while the Shack Over There’s Shakespeare riff, “Mafia Macbeth” is the least-expensive theater ticket in Colorado.

Video: The making of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” Part 2: “The Perfect Mission”

Part 2: The Perfect Mission

Part 2: “The Perfect Mission” follows the cast through the creative process to the even of opening night, one day before Ben Dicke was severely injured in a freak backstage accident/ Photo by John Moore

Veteran arts journalist John Moore followed the making of Ben Dicke’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” from inception to an opening night postponed by a serious backstage accident that hospitalized the director, who also happens to be the starring actor. Part 2: “The Perfect Mission” follows the cast through the creative process to the eve of opening night. Photo by John Moore. Running time: 8 minutes.


Here is a link to Part 1: Before the Fall
Here is a link to Part 2: The Perfect Mission
Here is a link to Part 3: Life Sucks
Here is a link to Part 4: This Is Happening
Here is a link to Part 5: Jackson Has It Going On
Performance information:
Where:Aurora Fox studio theater, 9900 E. Colfax Ave.

Times:  7:30 Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $25-$30
Contact: 303-739-1970 or the aurora fox’s home page

Germinal mourns death of actor David Kristin

The late David Kristin, right, starring in “The Well of the Saints” at Germinal Stage-Denver in 1979.


By John Moore

Sept. 25, 2012

Germinal-Stage Denver is mourning the death of actor David Kristin, who was also one of the early members of the Denver Center Theatre Company.

Kristin died March 31 in Massachusetts after a long bout with cancer, but word of his death has only recently reached Germinal founder Ed Baierlein, who employed Kristin back when his company maintained an ongoing company of actors. “He performed in just about every play we did from 1979 to 1982,” Baierlien said.

Kristin, who was 62 and a native of Boston, was under contract with the DCTC for one season, Baierlein said. He also starred in “The Well of the Saints,” “In the Boom Boom Room,” “Inadmissible Evidence,” “Candida,” “Moon for the Misbegotten” and more than a dozen other plays at Germinal, located on 44th Avenue just east of Federal Boulevard in northwest Denver. He was the first actor to ever play Stanley in a Germinal staging of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“He was just the nicest guy,” said Baierlein, who is himself preparing for hip-replacement surgery on Nov. 1. “He was a fun guy to be around and a good guy to work with.”

Kristin once appeared on the Bruce Willis TV series “Moonlighting,” but Baierlein said his sip of (uncredited) big-screen glory came as the young punk rocker who offers his jacket to a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator.”

Here is more on Kristin from his death announcement that appeared in the Winthrop (Mass.) Transcript.

David Kristin, a lifelong poet, avid theatergoer, photographer and passionate lover of music, was also an actor who was known for his unique, humorous, and powerful roles on local stage, national screen – and in life. Whether he was intensely delivering his poetry at the Winthrop Public Library, directing/acting in productions like “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” at the Winthrop Playmakers or silently surrendering his punk-rock jacket over to a nude Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator,” David radiated with a fullness of character, a raw sense of humor and an emotional honesty that was admired and cherished by everybody who knew and loved him. From Brooklyn to Denver to L.A. to Boston, he carried himself with the gentle swagger of an accomplished eccentric and the warmth of a sensitive extrovert with a penchant for stopping to read a poem he knew by heart to a stranger. Above all, he was a compassionate and loving father.

David is survived by his mother, Bea Krivulin of Brooklyn, NY, his three children, Wil, Jesse, and Sarah, their mother, Virginia Land, and his partner Kathy. He is peacefully buried at New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island, N.Y. Friends and acquaintances are encouraged to send any  stories or anecdotes by email to

Video : The making of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” Part 1

Part 1: Before the Fall

Veteran arts journalist John Moore followed the making of Ben Dicke’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” from inception to an opening night postponed by a serious backstage accident that hospitalized the director, who also happens to be the starring actor. Running time: 9 minutes.


Here is a link to Part 1: Before the Fall
Here is a link to Part 2: The Perfect Mission
Here is a link to Part 3: Life Sucks
Here is a link to Part 4: This Is Happening
Here is a link to Part 5: Jackson Has It Going On
Performance information:
Where:Aurora Fox studio theater, 9900 E. Colfax Ave.

Times:  7:30 Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $25-$30
Contact: 303-739-1970 or the aurora fox’s home page

On May 1, Ben Dicke ran for 24 hours on a treadmill on the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver to solicit the donations that put his $10,000 “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” Kickstarter project over the top. Photo by John Moore.

Fall at the Denver Center: No big breakthrough for local actors

Billie McBride, who will star in “The Giver,” performed with Dwayne Carrington and Sam Gregory in “Driving Miss Daisy” at the Barth Hotel this summer. Photo by Michael Ensminger


By John Moore

Sept. 22, 2012

The Denver Center Theatre Company on Thursday opened its 33rd season, eighth under artistic director Kent Thompson, and first since its National Theatre Conservatory grad program closed down.

The end of that highly regarded masters training program – and free talent pool for Thompson’s company – has resulted in more new faces than ever. There are 20 first-time DCTC actors in the first three shows of the 2012-13 season, which has just begun with “Fences,” “The Three Musketeers” and “The Giver.”

But while there are many recognizable local actors in those three shows,  the closing of the NTC has not resulted in the trampling-down of the doors to the local acting community as many (OK, me) had hoped. The one good thing that might come from the loss of the masters students was to have been an overdue infusion of proven local actors who wouldn’t require airfare or accommodation. But most of the newcomers this fall have come in from out of town.

There are only three local actors performing in their first official roles for the DCTC this fall, notably the long-overdue Billie McBride, who stars in “The Giver,” along with castmate Diana Dresser, who has worked at Creede Rep, the Arvada Center and elsewhere. Both have had previous understudy work with the DCTC, and Dresser appeared in the Galleria Theatre’s “Girls Only,” but neither has had a role to call her own at the DCTC before. The other new local is Samantha Long (“The Three Musketeers”), who has previously worked at Spark Theater. That group doesn’t include the many local child actors appearing in “Fences” and “The Giver,” most recognizably Alastair Hennessy, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Little Prince” in 2011. That list includes Caroline T. Bennet, the 12-year-old daughter of U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

The cast of “The Giver,” directed by Christy Montour-Larson, is made up entirely of local actors.

The list of local first-timers is expected to grow a bit with the second cycle of plays in November. Cast lists aren’t finalized, but the two most recent Henry Award winners for acting in a drama – Benjamin Bonenfant and Jake Walker – are expected to appear in the DCTC’s “When We Are Married.”

Members of the local acting community who are returning to the DCTC this fall include Beniah Anderson, Zachary Andrews, Anthony Bianco, Jamie Ann Romero and Geoff Kent, who are all for one in “The Three Musketeers.” Bryce Alexander is a first-time assistant director (“Musketeers”).

The only new first-time local understudy is Logan Ernstthal (“The Three Musketeers), a veteran of the Creede Repertory Theatre. Returning understudies include Laurence Curry, donnie l. betts and Jada Roberts (“Fences”), as well as Mackenzie Paulsen (“Musketeers”).

The NTC’s presence still will be felt with the returns of alums Hilary Blair (a voice in “The Giver”), Richard Liccardo (“Musketeers”), Timothy McCracken (“The Giver”) and Chiara Motley (“Musketeers”). Larry Hecht, their former head of acting, will star in “Musketeers” as Captain de Tréville.

But what’s perhaps most surprising about the newly issued cast lists is how few actors you could consider core DCTC company members will be performing this fall: Sam Gregory, John Hutton and Jeanne Paulsen (“Musketeers”), as well as Kim Staunton (“Fences”) and Philip Pleasants (“The Giver”). No Kathleen Brady, Mike Hartman,  Kathleen McCall, Drew Cortese or Jeanine Serralles, for varying reasons.

One of the most intriguing names on the cast lists below is  J. Paul Boehmer, who plays the Duke of Buckingham in “Musketeers” after having performed here last season in “Heartbreak House.” Boehmer is best known for his numerous appearances in the “Star Trek” universe.


“Fences” (through Oct. 14)
Director: Lou Bellamy



“The Three Musketeers” (Sept. 27-Oct 21)
Director: Art Manke

Soldiers and Citizens:
Captain de Tréville: LAWRENCE HECHT
Porthos: MIKE RYAN
Constance (Mme. Bonacieux) SOFIA JEAN GOMEZ
Mme. de Cocquenard: JEANNE PAULSEN
Milady, the Countess de Winter: KATIE MACNICHOL
Kitty, servant to Milady: JAMIE ANN ROMERO
The Count de Wardes: BENAIAH ANDERSON
Lubin, servant to de Wardes: JOHN TOURTELLOTTE
Jussac, a member of the Cardinal’s Guard: GEOFFREY KENT
Biscarrat, a member of the Cardinal’s Guard: BEN REZENDES
Grimaud, keeper of the Pineapple Inn: DONNY REPSHER
Bazin, keeper of the Golden Lily Inn: ANTHONY BIANCO
Executioner: J. Paul Boehmer

The Court in France:
Cardinal Richelieu: JOHN HUTTON
Count de Rochefort: SAM GREGORY
Mme. Chevreuse: CHIARA MOTLEY

In England:
The Duke of Buckingham: J. PAUL BOEHMER
Patrick, servant in Buckingham’s court: ZACHARY ANDREWS

BENAIAH ANDERSON (Count de Rochefort, Jussac), ZACHARY ANDREWS (King Louis, Musketeer, John Felton, The Duke of Buckingham), ANTHONY BIANCO (D’Artagnan, Planchet), LOGAN ERNSTTHAL (Captain de Tréville, Bonacieux, Reilly, Cardinal Richelieu), GEOFFREY KENT (Porthos, Athos, Aramis), SAMANTHA LONG (Mme. de Cocquenard, Abbess), CHIARA MOTLEY (Queen Anne, Milady, the Countess de Winter), MACKENZIE PAULSEN (Mme. Chevreuse, Kitty, Mlle. D’Astree), ARTIE RAY (The Count de Wardes, Lubin, Biscarrat, Patrick, Bazin, Grimaud), JAMIE ANN ROMERO (Constance)


“The Giver” (Oct. 4-Nov. 18)
Director: Christy Montour-Larson

Voice of Speaker: HILARY BLAIR
(There are no understudies for Ricketson Theatre shows)

Photos: Opening night of Local’s “Elijah: An Adventure”

“Elijah: An Adventure” star Benjamin Bonenfant, with Anna Faye Hunter. Photo by John Moore


By John Moore

Sept. 22, 2012

Photos from the party following the opening-night performance of Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure,” by Michael Mitnick. It’s one of our “11 most intriguing titles of the fall season.” More on the production here.

I crashed (what else?) the party after seeing Abster Productions’ “August, Osage County,” also at the Dairy Center (through Sept. 30).

Continue reading

Photos, video: Churchill performs “Change” at Denver party

By John Moore

Sept. 21, 2012

Just two weeks after signing with national label A&M Octone Records, home of Maroon 5, Denver acoustic indie-rock band Churchill played a down-low private party on Sept. 20 at a Denver art studio. The evening of mostly casual, unplugged goodness included a rendition of the popular new radio hit “Change” (video above), which Churchill singer-guitarist Tim Bruns credited as being the song that landed the band its record deal.

The evening included sets from Stephanie Dorman, Michael Morter, Bethany Kelly, and the band Churchill, sans bass player Tyler Rima. That’s Bruns (vocals and guitar), Kelly (vocals and guitar), Morter (mandolin and guitar) and drummer Joe Richmond (drums, or in this case – drum).

A&M has picked up Churchill’s latest release “The Change EP” for national distribution, and the band already has begun work on a full-length. Churchill has two shows scheduled Sept. 29-30 at the Bluebird Theater, the first of which is sold out.


From left: Michael Morter, Tim Bruns and Bethany Kelly of Churchill. Photo by John Moore.


Michael Morter of Churchill. Photo by John Moore.



Bethany Kelly of Churchill. Photo by John Moore.


Bethany Kelly of Churchill with Stephanie Dorman. Photo by John Moore.


Joe Richmond of Churchill. Photo by John Moore.


From left: Michael Morter, Tim Bruns and Bethany Kelly of Churchill. Photo by John Moore.


An artist at work during the Churchill party. Photo by John Moore.


Drummer Joe Richmond of Churchill in shadow. Photo by John Moore.


Party host Amy Bruns, wife of Churchill singer Tim Bruns. Photo by John Moore


Churchill drummer Joe Richmond, sister Nicole Mills (left) and party host Amy Bruns take in the set by Bethany Lelly. Photo by John Moore.

From left: Michael Morter, Tim Bruns, Bethany Kelly and Joe Richmond of Churchill. Photo by John Moore.
























Neck injury ends Thompson’s son’s football career at Drake

From left, Alex Thompson, then 11, with Kathleen McCall and Kent Thompson as they prepared to leave Birmingham, Ala., and move to Denver in 2005. Photo by Phil Scarsbrook, Alabama Shakespeare Festival.


By John Moore

Sept. 21, 2012

Except for perhaps opening nights, nothing made Kent Thompson’s face light up like watching his son play football.

Check that: Nothing made Kent Thompson’s face light up like watching his son play football.

The Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director and proud papa loved talking about Alex Thompson’s progress at Cherry Creek High School, and sneaking away on weekends to catch his games. In four years, he never missed one.

Alex was a highly sought recruit, and Thompson chronicled their recruiting adventures on Twitter from Florida to Northwestern to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where Alex ultimately decided to attend college and play Division I football as a linebacker.

Thompson’s most recent Tweet remains the one he sent during a recruiting visit to Drake with Alex on Jan. 15, 2011: “Des Moines. Visiting football program at Drake with Alex. Very cold. Good school. Good program.”

Alex Thompson. Photo courtesy Drake University.

Alex suffered a career-ending neck injury during the opening kickoff of the Bulldogs’ game at Indiana State last Saturday (Sept. 15). The 6-foot-1, 230-pound sophomore linebacker lay on the field for more than 10 minutes as medical personnel attended to him. “He lost sort of all feeling,” head coach Chris Creighton told the Des Moines Register. “In his words, he thought he was paralyzed.”

Drake assistant athletic director Ty Patton told the Register’s Tommy Birch that Thompson was diagnosed with a disk slide under his C3 vertebra, effectively ending his football career. On Monday, the Register reported, Thompson returned to practice standing, wearing a neck brace, and became emotional while  addressing coaches and teammates before practice.

Kent Thompson opened his seventh season as DCTC artistic director last night (Sept. 20) with August Wilson’s “Fences.” Productions of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Giver” open in the next two weeks.

Kent Thompson, son of a Baptist minister, lost his first wife, Carol, in 1997, after a five-year battle with cancer. The couple adopted Alex from a Korean woman in 1993, when Carol was in remission. “There is always something around the corner that seems to be just kind of a miracle,” Thompson said of Alex in a 2005 interview.

Since his son was 4, Kent Thompson has raised Alex  with his second wife, DCTC actress Kathleen McCall.

McCall hails from a line of Colorado high-school football legends. Her father, Don McCall, was a coach for 34 years at Douglas County High School. Her brother, Mick McCall, is the offensive coordinator at Northwestern; and her other brother, Randy McCall, is an NCAA basketball referee and former athletic director at Cherry Creek High School.

At Cherry Creek High School, Alex received 34 “Bruin Awards” for Performance Recognition during games.

“I’m outgoing, competitive, pretty passionate person and a leader,” Alex Thompson told in 2010. He was also very active in the community. He volunteered with the Denver Rescue Mission and The Crossing (a halfway house for homeless families) and worked to make Cherry Creek High School a hate-free zone.

“We work to make our school a no-hate school; no hate, no discrimination. I’m a facilitator, teaching and sharing leadership skills and activities on how to get to know each other,” he told the web site.  “People are scared of things that are not like them and things they don’t understand.”

For as important as football is to Alex Thompson, he let the web site know his priorities were clear.

“First  is education,” said Thompson, who aspires to be a writer.  “I plan to use football to get the best education I can. Second is football. Third is the environment.”

Kent Thompson talked about life as a football father with The Denver Post’s Bill Husted in 2009.

Photos: Curious Theatre vs. Buntport at “Smackdown-A-Mania”

By John Moore

Sept. 20, 2012

“Wrestlers” from the Curious and Buntport theater companies joined local comedians on Wednesday for “Smackdown-A-Mania,” a ridiculous night of silliness filled with spandex, swerves  and several incidents of … self-flagellation.

The night was part of Curious Theatre’s “urban adventures” series, designed not only to promote current programming but to allow new people to discover the company. Curious is currently staging the innovative wrestling drama “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” through Oct. 13. It then moves to Colorado Springs’ TheatreWorks from Oct. 19-Nov. 11.

Hellcat Hartwell with his manager, Luther (a.k.a. Josh Hartwell and Jim Hunt) before his title Jell-O thumb-wrestling match against Philip (Not The Author) Roth (a.k.a. Brian Colonna) at “Smackdown-A-Mania.” Photo by John Moore

World Leg Wrestling Champion Nacho Ass Whippin’ (a.k.a. Hannah Duggan) at “Smackdown-A-Mania.” Photo by John Moore

Professional Scandinavian wrestler Lute-Fist (a.k.a. Erik Edborg) takes on an Invisible Giraffe at “Smackdown-A-Mania.” Photo by John Moore

“Smackdown-A-Mania” co-host GerRee Hinshaw, of Freak Train. Photo by John Moore

“Smackdown-A-Mania” co-host Erin Rollman, of Buntport Theater. Photo by John Moore

Philip “Not the Author” Roth (Brian Colonna) weighs in at “Smackdown-A-Mania.” Photo by John Moore

Comedian Mara Wiles. Photo by John Moore

Jess Robblee wrestles with herself, literally and metaphorically, at “Smackdown-A-Mania.” Photo by John Moore

Karen Slack brings the Jell-O to the Jell-O wrestling. Photo by John Moore

Ed Cord as the worst wrestling fan in the world. Photo by John Moore

Old Glory came out on top in the “legit” wrestling match of the night. Photo by John Moore

Comedian Abbey Jordan. Photo by John Moore

Kathryn Gray and her canine pal whip up the crowd at “Smackdown-A-Mania.” Photo by John Moore

A smackdown between “Smackdown-A-Mania” co-hosts Erin Rollman, left, and Freak Train’s GerRee Hinshaw. Photo by John Moore

Improv comedian Libby “Liberty” Gordon. Photo by John Moore

Lute-Fist (a.k.a Erik Edborg) and Nacho Ass Whippin’ (a.k.a. Hannah Duggan) at “Smackdown-A-Mania.” Photo by John Moore

Hellcat Hartwell with his manager, Luther (a.k.a. Josh Hartwell and Jim Hunt) before his title Jell-O thumb-wrestling match against Philip (Not The Author) Roth (a.k.a. Brian Colonna) at “Smackdown-A-Mania.” Photo by John Moore


More coverage:

Fall 2012 most intriguing titles, No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

Our review: Thought-provoking, blood-pumping, high-decibel theater


Where: In Denver: Through Oct. 13 at 1080 Acoma St.

In Colorado Springs: Oct. 19-Nov. 11 at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Regent Circle, corner of Union and Austin Bluffs Parkway on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus


Performance times: In Denver: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays in Denver

In Colorado Springs: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays;  4 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: In Denver: $25-$44
In Colorado Springs: $35 reserved; Children under 16 $15; UC-CS Students free
Contact: In Denver: 303-623-0524 or curious’ home page

In Colorado Springs: 719-255-3232 or theatreworks’ home page

Brain injuries: The Agent Orange of the Iraq War

“Make Sure It’s Me” is the first production in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s new studio theater space. Photo by John Moore.


By John Moore

Sept. 19, 2012

The Vietnam War had Agent Orange, a lethal herbicidal toxin that exposed up to 5 million Vietnamese people and at least 70,000 soldiers on both sides to cancer as well as nerve, digestive, skin and respiratory disorders.

The signature injury of the Iraq War is TBI: Traumatic Brain Injury, most caused by roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Even as early as 2005, it was estimated that 31 percent of all battle-injured American soldiers in Iraq were suffering from TBI. But the U.S. military had no plan for even identifying brain trauma until 2006.

Because TBI symptoms don’t always manifest themselves as physical injuries, thousands of soldiers were either being diagnosed as mentally ill or, worse, they were not being diagnosed at all, and therefore not receiving any treatment.

TBI can sometimes manifest itself in twitching symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease,  but most victims suffer in unseen silence from anxiety disorders, panic attacks, mood swings, depression, chronic pain, sexual disfunction, insomnia, OCD, impaired memory and light sensitivity. TBI victims are more likely to engage in domestic, alcohol and drug abuse.

As of a year ago, the Veterans for America estimated that 400,000 American soldiers have suffered brain injuries since 2003. That represents 20 percent of the 2 million who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And as late as 2006, the Army was openly calling many of those claiming to have brain injuries from combat liars and fakes.

Which brings us to the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company’s workshop production of Kate Wenner’s developing new play, “Make Sure It’s Me,” playing through Sept. 23 in Colorado Springs. Wenner is a former producer for the TV news program “20/20.” Her play, which we have selected as one of the most intriguing offerings of the fall theater season, focuses on five vets injured in IED explosions in Iraq, and the impact on their families. It’s set in a university brain trauma clinic led by a headstrong doctor who blows the whistle on the U.S. military by letting the New York Times know that the incidence of TBI has reached epidemic proportions.

I led a talkback after the performance, which was attended only by about a dozen people, but several of whom spoke afterward of being deeply moved. That got me thinking about why writers write – and what writing formats they choose. I often sit in a theater watching a play with 127 scenes, thinking, “This writer clearly wanted to write a film, but he didn’t have the money to make it, so he’s passing this off as a play.”

“Make Sure It’s Me” doesn’t want to be a film. But, without having met Wenner, a fellow journalist whose play is based largely on interviews she conducted at the nearby Fort Carson military base, I speculated as to why she chose to wrote “Make Sure It’s Me” as a play, as opposed to, say, a nonfiction book or a news segment for “20/20.” Each would have their advantages. One segment of “20/20” might be seen by 6 million people, instantly interjecting an underreported social problem into the national dialogue – much like her protagonist in the play going to The New York Times.

The visceral benefits of the live theater are obvious, most evidently the ability to directly relate to an audience the human consequences of TBIs. But a production like “Make Sure It’s Me” will be seen by perhaps 200 people in its eight performances in Colorado Springs. Live theater takes much longer to make any kind of social impact, and this is an issue that requires urgent call and response. I once noted that “The Book of Mormon,” which still hasn’t played to less than a capacity house on Broadway, will have to be sold-out for 1,200 weeks to be seen by as many people who took in “The Hangover Part II” on its opening weekend alone. Seriously.

So could Wenner, who worked with the actors in Colorado Springs for about a week before leaving town on Saturday, do more good with her damning research by simply using the power of television?

That was one of a number of topics cast members and audiences tackled after Sunday’s performance.

Here are selected excerpts from the conversation:

John Moore: As a journalist, when you consider the facts as they are presented in this play, you’d think this would be a bigger ongoing issue in the national media. Does it surprise you that a problem that is so prevalent is not being talked about all that much?

Actor Mark Cannon, who plays Lt. Col. Banks: I was in the military, so, no, I am not surprised. I served as an Infantryman for six years. I was hit by several IEDs in Iraq and was diagnosed with slight TBI, like 10 percent … so I know these people.

John Moore: What’s it like, then, playing a member of the bureaucracy that works to keep this information from coming to light?

Mark Cannon: They can’t admit to it because it’s expensive, and it might show that they’re possibly losing control of the situation.

Actor Sallie Walker, who plays Sue Daniels, mother of a TBI soldier: Like any medical arena, there is a CYOA (“Cover Your Own Ass”) aspect to this. … because the military’s job is not really diagnostic. It’s not medicine. Once you’re out, OK, now you’re in the V.A.’s hands.

Actor Jen Lennon, who plays Sandy Ames, wife of a TBI soldier: As Lt. Col. Banks says in the play, ours is a voluntary military. And I don’t think a lot of people would volunteer if they knew going in some of the statistics in terms of brain injury, and the ramifications of what happens when you come home, like (increased) divorce rates.

Sallie Walker: Those soldiers who matriculated out of the service and were never diagnosed now make up a large percentage of our homeless population. They are diagnosed as mentally ill by doctors who have no knowledge (of their IED injuries).

Chris Medina, who plays TBI soldier Jackson Cantrell: And no one is responsible for tracking them down, either. So that’s where the community comes into play. What do we do to help our fellow citizens who are in that situation to get out of it?

Sallie Walker: Start a national registry. Something. It’s got to be a grassroots thing.

John Moore: So why do you suppose the playwright chose to write this as a play, as opposed to a novel or a segment on “20/20”?

Sallie Walker: The playwright wants the play to inform people, but not like a “20-20” piece. I think it’s great to couch something like this in a presentational way, because then you really get to see what’s going on.

Jen Lennon: It’s easy to gloss over statistics. It’s harder to see someone’s personal story unfold.

Sallie Walker: It’s visceral.

Ashley Crockett, who plays Dr. Jo Fitch: The playwright said what ripped her heart out was the first time she saw this story talked about on the national news, and how this sergeant couldn’t recognize her children.

Sallie Walker: That’s what made her want to write the play.

John Moore: Denver Post photographer Craig Walker followed a Marine taking pictures and notes as he struggled with the aftereffects of PTSD. It’s interesting how brain injuries express themselves in domestic violence, which is also addressed in this play. This Marine talked with Craig Walker about how “fight or flight” is a basic human instinct. But the first thing they teach you when you are a Marine is, “There is no flight.” That is not an option. So even in common domestic situations involving anxiety, such as an argument with your wife, it’s easy to see how a PTSD victim would go straight to “fight.” You don’t rationalize. You fight back, even if it’s the woman you love.

Christine Vitale, who plays Angel Rodriguez, wife of a TBI soldier: We had a panel after  Friday’s show. There were two doctors who worked with vets, a wife whose husband suffers from TBI and a retired staff sergeant who suffers from TBI. We’re here pretending, but these people are living these lives. It really smacks you in the face that this isn’t just a play.

(The conversation then included talk of the doctor character, Jo Fitch, having had a brother who died in Vietnam. The play asserts that TBIs are the Agent Orange of the Iraq-Afghanistan wars.)

Ashley Crockett: She’s an interesting character because she’s a whistle-blower and a research scientist. The character is written to not be at arms length. She’s not as controlled as, say, a military doctor. She is a specialist who has this specific knowledge and is motivated to do something about it. But (the playwright) did not want to have a good guy/bad guy thing going, so she personalized the character of Lt. Col. Banks, and she brought forward the whole idea of the wives, the families and how they are affected by all of this, because it’s so unknown. It’s tough for the families.  Nobody ever thinks about them. So that’s a story that needed to be told. … It’s a sacred charge that we have as actors because we are carrying their stories. It’s bloody awful that people, A) go to war; B) live through this stuff; and C) end up back home completely incapacitated and nobody knows what to do about it.

Jen Lennon: One of the points the playwright kept making to us is that she wanted to deal with memory. Not only individuals’ memory, but memory of war, and the idea that we let it fade away. I think one of the reasons she wanted to include Vietnam in the piece was because she doesn’t want our memories of war to fade away over time.

Sallie Walker: And she wanted to make the comparison between the mishandling of Agent Orange in Vietnam and the mishandling of TBIs today.

Ashley Crockett: I was around (at the time of Vietnam). Sallie and I went to bars and there would be these psycho Vietnam vets sitting around drinking. That’s not part of my daily experience now, but it was. And I forget. We forget.

John Moore: But do you think the play could benefit from a stronger antagonist?

Hossein Forouzandeh, who plays TBI soldier Mano Rodriguez: The author doesn’t want to point fingers at anyone in particular because the Army’s job is to be the Army. To go out and protect the country, and to go to war. It’s not their job to treat these people when they come back. That’s the V.A.’s job. Really everyone is just trying to do their jobs and get by.

Mark Cannon: There are good guys and there are bad guys, and she just chose not to put the bad guys in this show.

Sallie Walker: It’s reflected in the mishandling of the Agent Orange. Have we learned nothing? To me, the fact that there’s a bureaucracy whose vested interest is in denial, denial, denial until they can’t deny it any more: That’s the bad guy sort of amorphosed.

Marisa Hebert, who plays TBI soldier Annie Nichols: The staff sergeant who saw the play on Friday, he told us how many times he had been hit and what happened to him. And he was still like, “I would go back tomorrow.” He loved his job so much. I think you see that in (the character of TBI soldier Kevin Daniels): You see his entire driving force is to get better so that he can go back and do his job. They love what they do so much that they will put themselves in those situations over and over.

Audience member:  Do you remember the movie “Patton”? There’s a part where Patton was moving through the wounded section, and there was this guy who had a nervous breakdown. He was labeled a coward or a weakling by George C. Scott. I wonder how much of that macho mentality still exists?

Mark Cannon: Very much so. If you’re in the infantry, or if you’re a scout, you are not allowed to be a wuss. You don’t have time to be a wuss. With the business of the schedule, if someone was freaking out, you would just leave them back. I can’t speak for today, but three years ago … there was no sympathy.

Audience member: That is the heaviest production I have ever seen portrayed on a stage, and kudos to you all. I would think those parts would be very difficult to play. I am very touched. I have always had such a heart for this subject, but everything I have heard will really stick with me. … I am just very touched.


Cast list:

Jason Lythgoe

Dr. Jo Fitch: (University brain-trauma specialist): Ashley Crockett
Marine Lance Corporal Kevin Daniels: Jason Lythgoe
Sue Daniels (Kevin’s mother): Sallie Walker
Army Staff Sgt. Mike Ames: Emory Collinson
Sandy Ames  (Mike’s wife): Jen Lennon
Army Staff Sgt. Mano Rodriguez: Hossein Forouzandeh
Angel Rodriguez (Mano’s wife): Christine Vitale
Lt.  Colonel  Banks (Department of Defense): Mark Cannon
Army Staff Sergeant Annie Nichols: Marisa Hebert
Navy Corpsman Jackson Cantrell: Chris Medina

Director: Tim Muldrew

Performance information:
FAC Music Room in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St., 719-634-5583 or the fac’s home page

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, closing Sept. 23

Prices: $15

Contact: 719-634-5583 or the fac’s home page

KDVR apologizes for borrowed photo flap

For the record, this photo of Melissa Benoist and Patric Case that aired without permission on KDVR last week was taken by Denver Post photographer Kathryn Scott Osler. This was taken with my iPhone … without permission from anybody.


By John Moore

Sept. 17, 2012

It’s hard out there for a journalist in the internet age, when anyone can steal your work in a second using cut-and-paste, a screen-grab, a right-click or even an iPhone (see above). If you are a freelance photographer, forget being adequately paid for your work. Most would settle for simply getting credit for it. (But make no mistake – they deserve to be paid for it.)

A minor incident in the local media last week is a telling example of both the continuing erosion of newsroom resources in mainstream journalism today, and just how little control journalists have anymore over the content they own once it hits the internet.

Short story: The local Fox affiliate KDVR-31 lifted three photos from this blog without permission or offering credit to the photographers. It was a blatant example of short-cutting. I called them on it, and that did not meet with a friendly response.

“We don’t need a lecture about journalistic ethics from you,” emailed vice-president of news Ed Kosowski.

Ouch. My first reaction was, “ … Perhaps you do.”

This was not going to go well.

But actually, it did, and, after an exchange of further information, Kosowski issued a kind  apology.

Longer story: I wrote this feature story for The Denver Post on Sept. 9 about Littleton’s Melissa Benoist joining the cast of Fox TV’s “Glee.”  As an added feature, I posted photos to my blog here at of Melissa growing up performing on Colorado stages. Some of these photos were long-forgotten publicity photos I collected over the years as The Denver Post’s theater critic. Others were Denver Post staff photos from story assignments I filed during that time. I credited the photos.

Right after Benoist’s debut episode on “Glee” aired Thursday, KDVR teased an interview with the hometown girl by entertainment reporter Chris Parente. I was soon irked for two reasons: First, I saw screen-grabs of my blog – uncredited – showing photos of Melissa performing in two shows for Town Hall Arts Center in 2006-07. And, more troubling, a staff photo owned by The Denver Post showing Benoist performing in the rainy parking lot outside the Country Dinner Playhouse just hours after the landmark theater barn was chained and padlocked in 2007. (The Post photographer was Kathryn Scott Osler). The second thing was that Parente incorrectly stated in his report that Benoist wowed the crowds as Evita in the production. She was 16 then – she played Peron’s mistress. It was an honest, if sloppy mistake, but speaking of uncredited work – that credit belonged to Joanie Brosseau.

Here’s what you need to know about copyright, according to the Professional Photographers of America:

  • Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, photographs are protected by copyright from the moment of creation. You don’t have to license them, register or claim them. You can, but you don’t have to. It’s yours, as much as the “Mona Lisa” belonged to da Vinci.
  • Unless you have permission from the photographer (or whoever he/she gives ownership to), you can’t copy, distribute, publicly display or create derivative works from photographs. That means no scanning and sending them to others. No putting them online. No “right-click, save-image-as” button-pushing.

Clearly, KDVR had no right to use that Denver Post photo by simply lifting it from a third party. But the other two were publicity photos, and that’s murkier territory. They show Benoist in “Footloose” and “Cinderella,” photos that were publicly issued by Town Hall back in 2006 and 2007. While Town Hall would have been thrilled to have KDVR care enough to air those photos (then or now), they would not be readily available to anyone today who wasn’t compiling them as they went along. Not even on a Google search. We call such pictures  “archival photos.” To get them, KDVR would have had to ask for them.

The ethical route would have been to acquire them – and seek permission to use them – from the organizations that owned them. Instead, they took a short cut.

And, after some reconsideration, Kosowski agreed. Here’s the email he sent this morning:

Appreciate the additional information. We’ve done some back-tracking here to find out what happened and how this fell through the cracks. Another reporter, Hema Mullur, had been working on the story and she obtained those photos from your blog. She wasn’t able to finish the story (we were going back and forth with the father for an interview) before leaving for vacation, and she passed the information/photos/links/video to Chris Parente.

In that handover, Hema should either called or emailed you for permission/courtesy or told Chris to do that. In the future, we’ll be more careful and will make sure we ask for permission and credit any third-party source.

I apologize for the oversight and I’m glad you brought it to our attention.


A classy and appropriate response.

It’s worth reiterating that the theater companies, and their individual photographers, would have been happy to give KDVR those photos for its Benoist story. But newsrooms have fewer resources and less time than ever to get the little things done. And deadlines don’t care about your time and resources. Sometimes corners get cut.

The unfocused world of publicity pictures

This whole subject of theater publicity photos is itself a gray area. Here’s (sort of) how it works:

When a theater company is getting ready to open a play, many take their own publicity pics on whatever borrowed digital camera they can borrow, and the results are generally pretty amateurish. They submit these pictures to the media in the hope that they will be as widely distributed as possible. Even though the official policy at newspapers like The Denver Post is to cite the source of every photo, often there is so little effort put into the quality of these pictures that the companies don’t even submit the photographer’s name for individual credit. In those cases, we will simply say, “Photo provided by Generic Theatre Company.”

Other companies contract with established freelance photographers who, in exchange for a fee that can range from as little as nothing to $500 or more, turn over the photos – and their rights to them – to the theater company. But that does not absolve ethical media outlets from crediting the individuals for their work whenever possible. In Denver, the bigwig photographers include Michael Ensminger (Curious Theatre and others), P. Switzer (Arvada Center) and, until recently, Terry Shapiro (Denver Center Theatre Company).

Freelancers like Brian Miller scramble for every morsel of work they can get working with smaller theater companies that have little-to-no budget to pay for publicity pictures. (If only they realized how essential the quality of production photos is for how they get played on newspaper pages). Miller often works for a flat $75 fee on jobs that average about 30 hours of his time. He also often works for free. The only way to make money in this business, he says, is to shoot weddings. Instead, he shoots theater.

Miller took one of the pictures that KDVR used without permission or credit. For  $2.50 an hour, he figures, a simple credit line from a big-time local TV news channel would have been a nice boost.

In this age of Google image searches, it is becoming harder and harder for the Brian Millers of the world to control where their images pop up around the internet. But remember – creation is copyright. When someone steals your work, Miller said, that’s when it becomes necessary for you to register that copyright and take the offender to court.

Freelance photographers have long used watermarking symbols to force potential copiers of their work to actually purchase an original file. And the internet is now making it possible for photographers to embed invisible copyright information within the data of their online photos. It’s called “Exif.” Use it, and whenever someone copies your photo off the internet, they see who owns it – although that does not prevent them from copying it, regardless. Many large media organizations use new software that disables readers from even getting the option to copy an image when they right-click on it. But that doesn’t stop them from screen-grabs.

Did I mention this is a murky area? Just last week, a local theater company sent out a Denver Post staff photo from a previous staging as its publicity photo for the coming remount. Talk abut confusing.

And you might be worried after reading this that almost any of us with a Facebook page has skirted this copyright law in some way. But Facebook is different. By uploading anything to that site,  the owner gives away the exclusive copyrights to Facebook. It’s a bit of an open season on content.

Violators will always find a way around photographic piracy. But if anyone should understand the complexities and consequences of the issue, it should be mainstream media outlets whose revenues are being siphoned off by new media sources.

The message of the Professional Photographers of America: “Even small levels of infringement—copying a photo without permission—can have a devastating impact on a photographer’s ability to make a living.”

In the end, this is just a reminder about doing the right thing.

George Hamilton out of Denver run of “La Cage Aux Folles”

George Hamilton and the company of “La Cage Aux Folles.” Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik


By John Moore

Sept. 14, 2012

George Hamilton, the 73-year-old star of the national touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” will not perform in any remaining performances of the run in Denver, which closes at the Buell Theatre on Sept. 16.

Todd Thurston

The Denver Center released only the following statement: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Mr. Hamilton will not be performing September 11-16.No further information was forthcoming.

Hamilton’s understudy Thursday night was Dale Hensley, who normally plays Frances. Todd Thurston, who played Mr. Oleson in the touring production of “Little House on the Prairie, the Musical” that visited Denver last year, is listed as another possible replacement.

In an interview with The Denver Post on Sept. 5, Hamilton mentioned his injury history with the show, including a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on the night of his very first performance as Georges a year ago. He had a knee replacement, “and my Achilles was torn in half,” he said.

“As you do this show each week, the fatigue level gets more,” Hamilton added, although there was no confirmation from the Denver Center whether those injuries had anything to do with Hamilton’s withdrawal this week.

Short story: “-30-“

From the “Recurring Dreams” series


By John Moore



    That’s the international copy-editing symbol for “end of story,” and when Ralph Moore silently pushed those buttons on his cursedly modern laptop computer keyboard, the grizzled old newspaper reporter savored the thrill. Though the final dash was hardly the sensuous clack of a beloved old Royal typewriter key, it was the final touch on the story of a rather unstoried journalism career.

    This calls for something special, Ralph thought. His suitcase was packed and folded open on his hotel bed, leaving his plastic, portable bottle of Jameson’s within arm’s reach. Before Ralph sent this baby off to the mother paper, he had earned a sip of the best whiskey on the planet.

    A reporter can feel the difference between just another story and the kind that will make the most cynical editor tear up the front page with gusto. This one was even more. It felt like a Pulitzer Prize winner. Not bad for a 64-year-old scribe some whispered never had a prime to get past.

    “I can retire with this one,” Ralph said to no one as he plopped a few ice cubes into his glass, “because it’s never going to get better than this.”

    He took a swig and held it in like a snapshot. The year was 1983, and it never looked, or tasted, so good.

Continue reading

Audience: “A Happy End,” a sobering lesson we need to learn

The cast of “A Happy End,” playing through Sept. 16 at Buntport Theater: Top, from left: Mary Cates, James O’Hagan-Murphy. Bottom: Zuzana Stivinova, Kevin Hart, Evan Duggan, Heather Taylor. Photo by Michael Ensminger


By John Moore
Sept. 12, 2012

Talkbacks following performances of Iddo Netanyahu’s family drama “A Happy End” have brought spirited response from audience members like Ralph Stern of Denver, to whom the sobering message of play is clear:

“I think it’s important for this play to be presented over and over and over again,” Stern said, “because it’s a lesson that we as Americans, as Jewish Americans, and non-Jewish Americans … we need to learn.”

“A Happy End,” which plays at Buntport Theater through Sept. 16, is the story of a Jewish German couple facing the decision whether to leave Germany in 1932 amid the imminent rise of the Nazi Party. Despite foreboding signs, they can’t know that to stay would almost certainly be to their eventual demise.

“A Happy End” actor Zuzana Stivinova and audience member Ralph Stern. Photo by John Moore.

“This play was the story of my family, so it is a real story for me,” said Stern, whose family arrived in this U.S. in December 1938 — six years after the play is set.

“I went back to Germany in 2005,” Stern added. “It was the first time I had gone back in 68 years. I had to wait that long because if I had walked into Germany earlier and seen a person old enough to have been a Nazi, I would want to walk up to them, grab him by the lapel, shake his head and say, “And what were you doing, you son of a bitch?”

Stern said the play is important primarily because it addresses a question that has lingered and even grown with time and distance. “People don’t understand why more Jews didn’t leave Berlin,” Stern said. “What they don’t understand is the Jews that were living there just could not believe that this was happening to them in this country.”

Much of the talkback conversation following the Sept. 9 performance centered on the natural human tendency to live in blissful ignorance of warning signs of impending change. Playwright Iddo Netanyahu addressed that question himself in this interview.

One audience member added: “Being Jewish, I always wondered what it was in the psychology of people that they couldn’t perceive the danger realistically, or they could deny it. There were so many Jews in Europe who did leave, and there were a lot of people who couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Here are more excerpts from the Sept. 9 talkback conversation, led by myself and lead actress Zuzana Stivinova, a Czechoslovakian now living in New York:

John Moore: Have you ever experienced the “wonderful chaos” the play describes in our present-day world?

Stivinova: I was lucky. I was born in Czechoslovakia during the totalitarian regime, so my parents had to make some touch decisions. But after the Velvet Revolution, thanks to Vaclav Havel and some other very brave people, we are in a free country. So my husband and I can decide to leave, and we can always come back, which is amazing.

Audience member: I think one of the major underpinnings here is the whole concept of choice. That’s something we as human beings hold onto for dear life. It’s a place that we have power. So even if there might be two not very good choices, we still like to know that we are standing strongly in that place of making a choice.

Director Ami Dayan: The playwright placed the story back (in 1932), but he is writing about now. He’s not interested very much in spelling out what the dangers are now, because he wants the play to speak for itself. But in these talkbacks, a lot of people have spoken about gay marriage, civil rights and other issues going on in this country and around the world. But the play talks about morality on an interpersonal level, and how we perceive reality in our own marriages as well. The playwright opens it up to the audience to take it to their own lives, wherever they may be.

Actor James O’Hagan-Murphy (he plays Dieter): There are plenty of us today who may fear the extreme wings of any political party, whether it be the far left, or Tea Partiers. Right now you might say, “Oh, they’re extreme — don’t worry about it. Yes, they’ve got a couple of senators in there, but it’s not a big deal.” That’s like saying, “Well there are only a couple of Nazi Chancellors right now. It’s not a big deal.” Where is that line?

John Moore: And as the play makes clear, it wasn’t like the Nazis suddenly became the most powerful party in Germany. They came into power because they built coalitions. Very dangerous coalitions.

Ralph Stern: I think Iddo wrote it very much as an Israeli Jew, and what Iddo is saying to the Israeli is the necessity to realize that when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says, “I am going to destroy you” — he means it. And when the new president of Egypt (Mohamed Morsi) refuses to come to a meeting in Israel, there’s a statement that’s being made,  and we had better learn to listen to those statements.”

Additional comment from retired Denver theater producer Henry Lowenstein:
“ ‘A Happy End” tells the story of a Jewish physicist and his family as they vacillate in the face of the coming Nazi threat. Should they leave everything behind, or might it all be a passing phase that will soon blow over?

“I was 7 years old in Berlin in 1932 when I heard the very same discussions as many family friends decided to leave Germany. It became my quick lesson in survival and the end of being a child. My mother saw the coming danger, whereas my father, who had been highly decorated for his service as an Army doctor during all four years of World War I, would not believe that his beloved Germany could allow Hitler to rule for any length of time.

“Iddo Netanyahu’s play brilliantly catches the conflicting emotions of the time. Ami Dayan’s direction is eerily reminiscent of Erwin Piscator’s 1920s epic-drama style, and the cast is terrific.”

More on Zuzana Stivinova:
The talkback also was an opportunity for audiences to get to know Stivinova, who is married to a microbiologist and living in New York, where they are raising two boys.

Stivinova played a leading role in former Czech president Vaclav Havel’s final play, “Leaving,” presented at the Czech national theater, and was directed by Milos Forman (director of the films “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Amadeus” and “Hair”) in a jazz opera there called “A Walk Worthwhile.”

Havel  died last year, and “I still haven’t really recovered, because I wasn’t in Prague when it happened,” Stivinova said. But I still have him inside.”

As is typical in European countries, many actors  work in repertory theaters where they perform in, say, six plays for five years or more. “This was the first time I was totally focused on one piece,” Stivinova said of “Leaving.” “Vaclav was there almost every day. He told us many funny stories. He was quoting from “King Lear” and “The Cherry Orchard” and his own plays, because somehow he felt it would be his last play.

“Working with him was amazing. I think I saw the happiest Vaclav Havel because he had been very worried whether people would understand him. But at the first preview,  people were laughing. We went outside after to have one drink, and I still remember his face. In that moment, he was no longer a politician. He was no longer a president. He was back to being a playwright. He was almost like a small boy, he was so happy.”

As for Forman, “he allowed himself to be sentimental in his older age,” Stivinova said.  “The Jazz Opera” is such a funny opera. We were working on it for over six  months, and it was such fun. He he has double twins: He has small twins, and big twins — with different women, which is rare. But his older sons were there working with him, and so he felt protected. He was very tough, but he is always protecting actors. He lives in Connecticut mostly, but he is always preparing something.”

Forman and others of his generation were like many of immigrants who came to America: They didn’t have a return ticket. “They only had a way to get there,” Stivinova. People like (Roman) Polanski and Milos Forman, they didn’t have any relatives. And they couldn’t go back. So they had to survive. And they had to make it to survive.”

That reminded Stern of a famous Hebrew expression. “Going back to the 1940s, when the Israelis were first asked, ‘How could you be such a powerful fighting force? You are so outnumbered.” Their response was always: “No alternative.”

“That is a tremendous boost to make you achieve what you want to achieve, because there is no alternative.”

Contact John Moore at 303-953-9907 or


“A Happy End”

  • Sept. 1-16 (previews Aug. 30-31)
  • At Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., Denver.
  • 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.
  • Tickets: $25 ($18 Aug. 30-31); seniors and students $15.
  • 720-289-6451 or

Photos: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”

A look at the Arvada Center’s  2012- 13 season-opener, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” running through Sept. 30.

Photos by P. Switzer, Arvada Center










Principal cast: Dennis Parlato (Lawrence Jameson); Ben Nordstrom (Freddy Benson); Laura E. Taylor (Christine Colgate); Gary Lynch (Andre Thibault); Susie Roelofsz (Muriel Eubanks) and Lorinda Lisitza (Jolene Oakes). Ensemble members are: Piper Lindsay Arpan; Heather Doris; Alicia Dunfee; Maddie Franke; Valerie Hill; Kitty Hilsabeck; Mercedes Perez; Katie Ulrich; Matthew Dailey; Daniel Herron; Robert Hoppe; Brian Jackson; Matt LaFontaine; Mark Rubald; Travis Slavin and Hayden Stanes.

In addition to director Rod Lansberry, the creative team includes David Nehls (musical director), Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck (choreographer), Brian Mallgrave (scene design), Clare Henkel (costume design) and Shannon McKinney (light design).

Performances are Tuesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays at 1 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets: or call 720-898-7200.


Bonus pic:

Opening night of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” was the first night of comfy new seats in the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities’ mainstage theater. Showing ’em off: Eden Lane, host of Channel 12’s “In Focus.” Photo by John Moore.




Video: “Bloody Bloody” announces new opening date: Sept. 27

By John Moore

Sept. 11, 2012

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” producer and star Ben Dicke, injured in a serious fall just before the opening performance was to begin on Sept. 7, has announced that the regional premiere of the emo-rock political history lesson will now open at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, in the studio theater at the Aurora Fox.

The show now will be performed on Thursday through Sunday nights through Oct. 28, with Dicke back in the starring role as Andrew Jackson, and with the entire original cast intact.

Dicke broke four ribs, lacerated a lung and took a gash to the back of his head when he fell down a trap door at the Aurora Fox. Doctors originally estimated it might take Dicke 6-to-8 weeks for a complete recovery, but they now believe Dicke’s peak physical condition as a trained ultra-runner will speed his recovery time.

The role of Jackson is a physically demanding one, but Dicke believes with slight modifications, his injuries can be accommodated on stage.

“We are moving forward,” Dicke said in the video statement embedded above. “This will be a limited run, and it’s definitely, definitely going to be an exciting one … although hopefully slightly less exciting than the last one,” he joked.

In the video above, Dicke also addresses those who reached out to him from around the world while he was hospitalized.

New performance information:

Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”

A comedic, Wild West emo-rock musical about the founder of the Democratic Party, who was either one of the greatest U.S. presidents, or America’s Hitler. Or both.

Sept. 27-Oct. 28, 2012

7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays; also 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8

Ticket prices: $25-$30

At the Aurora Fox Studio Theatre, 9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora

Tickets: 303-739-1970 or online at The very end of the video says “.org,” but “.com” is correct.

Ben Dicke’s head, three days later: By comparison … not so bad. Photo by John Moore.



Ben Dicke, out of the hospital: “We’re moving forward,” he says (even with hospital bracelet intact). Photo by John Moore.



Robert Garner given Lifetime Achievement Award at memorial

CultureWest.Org video from the Garner ceremony: Click here

By John Moore

Sept. 8, 2012

Longtime Denver theater producer Robert Garner was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broadway League of New York at a celebration Saturday honoring Garner, who died July 19.

The award was presented via videotape by Nick Scandalios, chairman of the board for the Broadway League and executive vice president of the Nederlander organization.

“Bob put Denver on the map, making it a must-stop for any tour,” Scandalios said. “And at the same time, he was instrumental in opening up many road markets in the West for Broadway touring.”

He added: “Bob was always plugged into Broadway. In fact, we always used to say, ‘If you wanted to know something about Broadway, call Bob Garner in Denver.’

“My boss, Jimmy Nederlander, always said, ‘You could always count on Bob Garner to be loyal and a friend. And friends in this business are the most important things. You can count them on one hand, and you could do things with a friend on a handshake.’ ”

The afternoon culminated with a tribute from Denver Center president Randy Weeks. “Bob was my Peter Pan,” he said. “He didn’t want to grow up — or he did not want to grow old.”

More coverage:

Here’s my look back at the man for all ages

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Project Angel Heart.

To read several tribute pieces to Bob, click here

Bill Husted, Judi Wolf and Donald Seawell at Saturday’s celebration of the life of theater producer Robert Garner. Photo by John Moore.


“Bloody Bloody” star released from Aurora hospital

If you split your head open, break four ribs and puncture your lung, Ben Dicke figures … you might as well get a marketing poster out of it. That’s a quote from “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” Photo by Joseph Bearss.


By John Moore

Sept. 9, 2012

Ben Dicke, the producer, director and star of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” whose fall down a trap door at the Aurora Fox Theatre forced a cancellation of the opening performance less than two hours before it was to begin, was released this morning from the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora.

Dicke broke four ribs, cut his head and punctured a lung when he fell about 8 feet down an unseen open trap door along a backstage walkway late Friday afternoon. Scheduled performances tonight  (Sept. 9) and Monday (Sept. 10) have been canceled. Opening night now will be Friday, Sept. 14.

While doctors have told Dicke to expect a recovery time of 6-8 weeks, the Bloody-but-not-bowed Dicke is not yet prepared to say he won’t be on the Aurora Fox studio theater stage on Friday portraying Andrew Jackson as a brooding but erudite modern-day emo-rock star in the big-buzz musical whose mystique – and buzz – have only grown since Dicke’s 42-hour stint in the hospital.

“I am going to treat it like an NFL player’s injury,” Dicke said this morning. “We’re going to get a  backup ready to go, and I think it’s going to be a game-time decision.”

That backup is  Andrew Diessner, who recently starred in the Aurora Fox’s production of “Xanadu.” He was cast in the role of “Bandleader,” which requires him to sing, dance and play bass with the band. If it is necessary for Diessner to play Jackson, musical director and keyboardist Jason Tyler Vaughn would take on the additional “Bandleader” performing responsibilities, while a new bass player would be added to the band.

There are several factors weighing against Dicke being able to  resume performing, at least right away — not the last being the broken ribs and “debilitating” shoulder pain that Dicke says was exacerbated by spending hours in the ER in a neck brace. He has developed significant bruising along his back from the broken ribs.  The role of Jackson is a physically demanding one, complete with stage fights and even concert-style stage-diving. More important, it is a  demanding vocal role, so the biggest obstacle may be Dicke’s lung capacity. “That’s the thing I think would be the most challenging,” he said.

It is extremely difficult — and painful — for an actor to sing with rib pain exacerbated by diminished lung capacity. Working in Dicke’s favor is his peak physical condition. He’s an ultra-runner who recently completed the Leadville Trail 100-mile running race in 30 hours. Doctors were amazed by Dicke’s performance on breathing tests in the hospital, given the extent of his injuries. “Luckily I am pretty strong, and I am probably in the best shape of my life,” Dicke said.

As a self-producer, Dicke has been working tirelessly for months to finance this first-ever Colorado staging of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” including running for 24 hours straight on a treadmill on Denver’s 16th Street Mall to help finance the production. So he was understandably devastated having to cancel the opening weekend of performances. But “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” will have an uncommonly long run for local theater — through Oct. 28 — so he hopes anyone who had tickets this weekend will reschedule.

Dicke has taken heart, and some ribbing — pun intended — from the hundreds of get-well messages that have come his way from all over the country through social media. The most common, in effect: “Please don’t take the title of your show so literally.”

This morning, he responded to well-wishers bt posting: “Seeing all the prayers and love and support here on Facebook and in my texts and from my phone calls has definitely sped up my recovery time. Perhaps it’s time to release some of the ER photos!”

Hey, Dicke still has an expensive production  to market.

And he just can’t stand the idea of possibly missing his opening night.

“I’ve been sitting here calculating the hours until Friday and thinking, ‘Well, what will I feel like by Wednesday? …’ and, ‘What will I feel like by Friday? …’ ”

Here’s more  on “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” which  CultureWest.Org last week ranked  No. 2 on its list of the 11 most intriguing fall theater titles.

To order tickets or to move reservations, call 303-739-1970. Tickets also can be purchased online at the Aurora Fox’s web site.



Denver Post: Colorado’s Melissa Benoist joins “Glee”


Will (Matthew Morrison) introduces Marley (Melissa Benoist) as a new member of the glee club in the Season 4 premiere of “Glee.” (Provided by FOX)

Today, I am back in the pages of The Denver Post for a day, contributing a story on Colorado’s Melissa Benoist joining the cast of “Glee.”

Benoist’s life has changed forever: The Littleton native has been cast on “Glee” — and she already has been Slushied. That’s when a bully throws a Slurpee-like frozen beverage in your face. And, yes, it hurts. 

Read the full story here.

Continue reading

Injury cancels “Bloody Bloody” opening night at Aurora Fox

Ben Dicke at University of Colorado Hospital tonight.


By John Moore

Sept. 7, 2012

Friday night’s opening performance of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Aurora Fox was canceled because of a backstage accident that sent director, producer and star Benjamin Dicke to the nearby University of Colorado Hospital.

Dicke fell about 8 feet down an open trap door at about 5 p.m., just 2 1/2 hours before the first performance was scheduled to begin. It took paramedics about an hour to safely extract him from below the stage.

Dicke broke four ribs, punctured a lung and has a cut on the back of his head that took three staples to close. He is not expected to require surgery, Doctors estimated a complete recovery will take six to eight weeks.

Scheduled performances for Sunday and Monday (Sept. 9-10) have been canceled. Opening night will now take place Sept. 14. If Dicke is unable to resume performing, the role of Andrew Jackson will be played by Andrew Diessner. The acclaimed emo-rock history musical is scheduled to run through Oct. 28.

The open trap door is located directly behind the Aurora Fox’s main stage, part of a pathway that also leads to the adjacent studio theater, where “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is to be performed.

Dicke was carrying a large box of  newly arrived foam fingers that serve as props in the show, so he could not have seen that the floor before him had opened up.  Another Aurora Fox technician had dodged into the trap area to retrieve one missing letter that was needed to complete the “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” title on the outside marquee. It was estimated that the door was only open for 30 seconds before Dicke fell in. The technician was still down below when Dicke fell.

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is a being produced by Dicke, who formed his company specifically to bring the metro area its first staging of the popular populism Broadway musical that tells the story of the nation’s seventh president with both irreverent and cutting undertones. By presenting Jackson as the equivalent of a modern-day rock star, the show draws both political and cultural parallels that make plain things are not all that different now than they were nearly 200 years ago.

Last week,  CultureWest.Org ranked it No. 2 on its list of the 11 most intriguing fall theater titles.

Patrons whose reservations have been affected by the cancellations can reschedule by calling 303-739-1970.


Video: Actor Christopher Sieber on Broadway’s support for bullied Colorado teen

By John Moore

In 2008, Adrian Ulm made national news when it was learned that the 14-year-old middle-schooler from Centennial, Colo., was being beaten up for, among other reasons, taking part in theater. He endured taunts including “Nazi,” “Jew” and “gay” for two years until an inevitable confrontation left him with a broken collarbone and facial bruises.

When actor Christopher Sieber heard about Adrian, the “Spamalot” actor invited the boy and his father to New York, where the Broadway community treated them to a weekend of shows, backstage visits, friendship and support.

Read the whole Denver Post story here: Actors support bullied boy

While Ulm, now 18, has returned to his native Germany, Sieber is in Denver performing in the national touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles” with George Hamilton.

In the video above, Sieber talks about why it was important for him to reach out to Adrian.

More video: “Three Minutes with George Hamilton.”

“La Cage Aux Folles” plays through Sept. 16 at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. For tickets, call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center’s web site.

Video: Three minutes with … George Hamilton

In this new web series, journalist John Moore interviews prominent visitors to Denver. George Hamilton, star of the national touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” talks along with co-star Christopher Sieber. Episode 2.

“La Cage Aux Folles” plays through Sept. 16 at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. For tickets, call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center’s web site.

Public invited to celebrate theater producer Bob Garner on Saturday

Robert Garner with Chuck Morris. “Two old show-biz pals,” Garner wrote on Facebook. Photo via Joanne Davidson, The Denver Post


By John Moore for CultureWest

Friends of legendary Denver theater producer Robert Garner know the last thing the tireless bon vivant would probably want is a memorial party on his behalf to be held in a classy ballroom, but … I’m guessing, that will be just the start of a party to celebrate a true Denver original on Saturday, Sept. 8.

You know him, and if you don’t, here’s my look back at the man for all ages, who died July 19, no doubt very much against his will.

The fun begins at  3 p.m. in the Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, at the corner of 13th and Arapahoe streets.

Being an intrepid reporter, I have interrogated several sources who have confirmed on the condition of complete anonymity that there will be an open bar and hors d’oeuvres for this event.

Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. You are asked only to RSVP to this page, so that organizers know how much food to get.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Project Angel Heart.

To read several tribute pieces to Bob, click here

I can’t tell from the information I have been given just how long this party is expected to last, but the goal is for it to outlast the Ballroom stage and spill over into some other gathering place in the immediate vicinity. Check back for updates on that vital information.

60-Second Review: “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

Michael Lopez as Mace in Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.” Photo by Michael Ensminger.


By John Moore

You might think it’s a gimmick — “the wrestling play” that offers up live theater as a violent, full-contact sport.

Oh, it is, how “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” whips the Curious Theatre crowd into a frenzy worthy of Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

The way the opening-night crowd was hooting and hollering — live theater should (always) be so lucky.

The set is a wrestling ring, and in it, a remarkable cast of actors and real-life wrestlers deliver their share of clotheslines, butt drops and cannon balls. But the real body-slam is how playwright Kristoffer Diaz’s wholly original, Pulitzer-nominated story explores the underbelly, artifice and undeniable childlike appeal of professional wrestling with its simple, caricatured characters and predetermined storylines that crassly tap into its fans’ primal nationalism, bloodlust and ignorant fear of the unknown. Like, say, Muslims.

As they sing in “Avenue Q,” “everyone’s a little but racist,” and in a post-9/11 America, we might be more than a little bit racist when it comes to Muslims — America’s bogeyman for the 21st century.

Patrick Byas as Chad Deity. Photo by Michael Ensminger

It’s all told in a sweet, seductive way. Our endearing narrator is “Mace” Mendoza. His childhood dream was to grow up to be a professional wrestler, and now he is. But not the way he dreamed. Instead he’s an essential but lowly piece of the wrestling corporation food chain – he’s paid to lose, so that others might win. Others as in champion Chad Deity, a god-like rock of a man modeled after that ultimate modern wrestling cartoon, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  Exploitative promoter Everett K. Olson is a cutting iteration of real-life wrestling magnate Vince McMahon. E.K.O.’s  only concern is making money, even if it perpetuates the basest of racial stereotypes. And his ultimate opportunity  comes when he uses Mace to transform Vigneshwar Paduar — a brash, hip-hop Brooklynite of  Indian descent — into “The Fundamentalist,” a Middle Eastern terrorist costumed in a full robe, turban and beard. His wrestling m.o. is to hide in the shadows, showing himself only long enough to deliver a signature kill move called “The Sleeper Cell.” This too, is based on one of McMahon’s most controversial, real-life wrestling inventions. Several times during the night, we are encouraged to go home and google Muhammad Hassan, a.k.a Mark Magnus.

It’s a lucrative but reprehensible scheme, sure to whip up harmful anti-Arab prejudices. And suddenly we have a real play on our hands.

“Lets get ready to rumble!”

Even though the play, and the sport it satirizes, are unapologetic gimmicks, this work is a significant commentary on ingrained and inflamed racial bias in 2012 America. And coming from the theater company that brought you “Nine Parts of Desire,” “Homebody/Kabul” and “Clybourne Park,” it’s not far-fetched to suggest that “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” is the next logical extension of those conversations. Only it’s a lot more fun.

Seriously: “Nine Parts of Desire” introduced audiences to the suffering and resilience of Iraqi women both before and because of “Bush’s War.” “Chad Deity” uses women in burkas as ringside props like boxing uses sexy round-card babes. “Homebody/Kabul” laid out a means for the global understanding of an Afghan landscape that, as “Chad Deity” makes plain, remains stubbornly unfamiliar to Western eyes. “Clybourne Park” talked about how far we have perhaps not come in terms of race in America. “Chad Deity” shows how the E.K.O.’s of the world profit from it.

There is some remarkable work in every corner of the ring, from director Chip Walton’s casting of proven vet William Hahn as the promoter to the chiseled and magnetic Patrick Byas in the title role to Akshay Kapoor as the Indian-turned-Fundamentalist to — emphatically — the warm and welcoming Michael Lopez as our narrator, Mace. There are distinct roles in the theatrical canon, such as the lugubrious Barfee in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” that are so specific to certain actors’ innate charm and physical characteristics that those actors could play them from town to town for the next 10 years. Byas and Lopez live in the skins of their characters in that kind of way. It’s all the more remarkable that Byas, from New York, and Lopez, from California, are creating their roles for the first time here.
This is also just the latest monumental technical achievement for Curious, including scenic design (Charlie Packard), costumes (Ann Piano), lighting (Shannon McKinney) and, most especially, sound and video design (Brian Freeland and Mitch Dickman), who effectively create a big-arena, rock-concert setting in a relatively small theater.

There is one inherent and unavoidable conflict of (our) interest here. We in effect are double-cast as both audience to the play and audience to the live, made-for-TV wrestling spectacles our smarmy promoter stages. Realizing the full, “turn the mirror on ourselves” intent of the playwright is dependent on the need to manufacture a full audience frenzy in favor of all-American patsies like Billy Heartland and  Old Glory, a couple of saps who serve as roadkill on The Fundamentalist’s road to a title bout with Chad Deity. But by then, the playwright has delivered a “testicular claw” upon us. We’re so solidly in the corner of the “foreign wrestlers,” we’re cheering for The Fundamentalist — or, more specifically, on the side of the Indian character named VP who plays him.

VP, it turns out, is a truly 2012, all-American character we kind of hope, in the end, will deliver a chair right across the head of his mercenary promoter. The playwright has something else in mind. But when the audience catches itself rooting for the fake terrorist, an intentionally uncomfortable feeling kind of prevails. It’s this notion of, “I know who I’m rooting for … but I don’t know if it’s OK for me to cheer for him out loud.”

This all makes for thought-provoking, blood-pumping, high-decibel theater that manages to deliver a “Sleeper Cell” of a punch. … Not to mention: Live wrestling at intermission.


Michael Lopez as Mace-turned Mexican rebel anti-American and Akshay Kapoor as VP (“The Fundamentalist”). Photo by Michael Ensminger.


More coverage: 

Fall 2012 most intriguing titles, No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”


Where: In Denver: Through Oct. 13 at 1080 Acoma St.

In Colorado Springs: Oct. 19-Nov. 11 at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Regent Circle, corner of Union and Austin Bluffs Parkway on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus


Performance times: In Denver: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays in Denver

In Colorado Springs: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays;  4 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: In Denver: $25-$44
In Colorado Springs: $35 reserved; Children under 16 $15; UC-CS Students free
Contact: In Denver: 303-623-0524 or curious’ home page

In Colorado Springs: 719-255-3232 or theatreworks’ home page

Cast list:

Director: Chip Walton

Chad Deity: Patrick Byas

Patrick Byas: Chad Deity

William Hahn: EKO

Akshay Kapoor: VP

Michael Lopez: Mace

Bruce Rogers: The Bad Guy

Plus three real-life, local wrestlers: Ronin, Brian Keith Nelson and Brandon Morris.


Michael Lopez as Mace. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Patrick Byas as Chad Deity. Michael Lopez as Mace. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Akshay Kapoor as VP (“The Fundamentalist”). Photo by Michael Ensminger.

William Hahn as E.K.O. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Patrick Byas as Chad Deity. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Live wrestling at intermission! Photo by John Moore for CultureWest.Org