Curious again alone in offering annual “Free Night of Theatre”

By John Moore

Oct. 30, 2012

The New York-based Theater Communications Group (TCG) has tried for eight years to organize a national night of free theater, but the initiative has failed to drum up much participation in Colorado. Not because audiences here don’t want a night of free theater, but because member theaters here just haven’t gotten on board with the plan.

This year, Curious Theatre is out to change that.

CTG’s “Free Night of Theatre”  hasn’t drummed up much interest here, and, for the second straight year, Curious is the only local participating theater. But, onward they march alone, into the land of “free.”

This year’s “Free Night” is set for Wednesday, Nov.  14. Curious will be presenting a special performance of “Time Stands Still,” beginning at 7 p.m.

“One of my favorite nights ever in the past 15 years at Curious was last year, when we gave away an entire performance of ‘Clybourne Park,’ ” said director Christy Montour-Larson. “The excitement and joy in the room that night was palpable. I am so thrilled we are doing it again with ‘Time Stands Still.’ ‘Free Night’ provides us with a unique opportunity to open our doors to new theatergoers, and introduce new audiences to the joys of live theater.”

TCG only represents professional companies, so it has only about 10 member companies in Colorado.  “Free Night” started as an audience-development initiative in 2005, with 150 participating companies presenting more than 120 free performances for more than 8,000 people in Texas, Pennsylvania, California and more. But the initiative was all but unknown in this state before Curious joined in last year, when the company gave away 179 seats to “Clybourne Park” in 30 minutes.

“The goal of the program is to introduce new theatergoers to Curious Theatre Company,” said Montour-Larson, who also serves as a “producer in residence” for the company. “I am on a quest to make ‘Free Night of Theatre’ a statewide event,” she added. But once again, no other local companies will be participating this year.

Here’s how it works:

*Patrons can enter the lottery for the free tickets by registering at the web site www.freenightdenver.com between now and Nov. 2, 2012. You will be asked to create a free profile. Preference will be given to those who attend theater infrequently.

*Everyone who enters will receive an e-mail telling them whether or not they’ve won. Winners will be sent a link to confirm whether they still want the tickets, and a second e-mail will be sent 48 hours before the performance.

For more information, call 303-623-0524

About Curious’ “Time Stands Still”

Opening Saturday, Nov. 3, through Dec. 15: Donald Margulies’ intimate, character-focused drama is about a couple at a crossroads. Sarah, a photojournalist recently injured while on assignment in Iraq, returns home to Manhattan, where her partner, James, anxiously tries to nurse her back to health. But despite James efforts to keep her home, Sarah never feels completely comfortable staying in one place. The play was nominated in 2010 for a Tony Award for best new play.

Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Also 7 p.m. Nov. 14.
1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curious’ home page

The cast includes Michael Morgan (James), David Russell (Richard), Tara Falk (Sarah) and Devon James (Mandy).

 

Remodeled Chez Artiste movie theater re-opens Friday

 

By John Moore

Oct. 25, 2012

Landmark’s Chez Artiste Theatre  re-opens Friday (Oct. 26) after an extensive renovation and remodel.

This renovation includes new advancements in sight, sound and seating, including Barco Digital Projection, upgraded digital sound and new  leather-style seats with expanded row widths.

New decorative touches throughout the theater include new granite countertops and mosaic glass-tile walls as well as stone flooring in the lobby, new hardwood flooring and carpet throughout each theater, imported wall coverings in each hallway, French wall sconces and Italian light pendants. The concessions and box-office areas and auditorium entries now feature large LED screens displaying films and showtimes.

Films opening  Friday include THE HOUSE I LIVE IN, Eugene Jarecki’s look at America’s war on drugs; THE OTHER DREAM TEAM, a story of trailblazing athletes who left  indelible marks on the history books; and CHICKEN WITH PLUMS, a French-language drama set in Iran.

Order advance tickets for all screenings here

Download a coupon for a free small popcorn with any beverage purchase. Valid Oct. 26-Nov. 1 only.

Video: Five minutes with … Quincy Jones

 

Quincy Jones was joined by Natasha Bedingfield and Virginia Williams for the 2012 Global Down Syndrome Foundation fundraising fashion show, titled “Be Beautiful Be Yourself 2012,” at the Sheraton Hotel in Denver on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. (Photo by Daniel Petty)

 

In this ongoing web series, arts journalist John Moore interviews prominent visitors to Denver. Here, Quincy Jones, producer of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the best-selling album in history, and international spokesman for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, talks with Moore before Jones’ fourth annual gala in Denver, which raised $1.5 million on Oct. 13, 2012. Episode 3.

For more information, visit globaldownsyndrome.org

 

Previous episodes:

Pam Grier

George Hamilton

 

Denver Post profile: TV host Eden Lane opens up about her life and challenges

Last week, Eden Lane participated in a community-wide staged reading of Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black’s play “8,” hosted by the Denver Center Theatre Company and featuring a cast of both professional actors and local celebrities. The play chronicles the historic constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which would have eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry. (Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen, provided by the Denver Center)

 

By John Moore

Oct. 21, 2012

Colorado Public Television’s Eden Lane is believed to be the first transgender journalist on mainstream TV anywhere in the United States. “But I don’t think of being transgender as any part of my identity, any more than I do that I am left-handed,” she said.

But “the Eden Lane story represents the potential for a wonderfully better world,” fellow TV producer Tom Biddle says. “It helps us to understand humanity better in a way that is unavailable to most people.”

Read my full profile on Eden Lane here. It ran in today’s Denver Post.

Two ex-theater critics, sitting around having coffee

Former theater writer Mark Collins has gone from critical to presidential in square product theatre’s “44 Plays for 44 Presidents.”

 

By John Moore

Oct. 19, 2012

For 10 years, Mark Collins was one of the leading critical voices in the Denver/Boulder theater community, combining a compassionate eye for the art of making theater with an opinion backed by a master’s degree. As a freelance contributor to the Boulder Daily Camera, Collins was always understated and well-informed.

In April, Collins wrote one of his most memorable essays, one explaining the transformative experience he had returning to the stage after a 15-year absence. He appeared in a friend’s play in Virginia, which inspired his thoughts on reconnecting with that strange alchemy that first attracted all of us to the stage.

The experience was so profound that a few months later, Collins did something extraordinary: He walked way from the Camera to pursue acting here in Colorado on a regular basis. He started with an appearance in Theatre Company of Lafayette’s new-play festival,  “Comic Con con Comedy.”

Tonight (Oct. 19), Collins opens the ensemble-driven political comedy “44 Plays for 44 Presidents” for the lower-cased square product theatre company at the Dairy Center in Boulder. This rapid-fire biographical survey of each of the 44 men who have been president so far is described as a comic antidote to all the campaign negativity that hangs over the nation like a brown cloud.

As a contemporary of Collins’ who also recently – some would say inexplicably – walked away from my job as a theater critic, I was eager to talk with Collins and compare notes about “crossing over.” Just as some believe in an afterlife that will be as varied as heaven, hell and the Elysian Fields, I suspect we, too, have crossed over into very different critical afterlives.

But for this Wednesday afternoon, we both found ourselves at Ozo’s – me on my way to Boulder’s Dinner Theatre to see “Avenue Q,” he on his way to his final dress rehearsal. As someone who spends about as much time in a coffee shop as an altar boy at a bris, I order a hot Earl Gray (or is that Grey?). Collins, who earned his BFA in acting at the University of Colorado and his MFA from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, is already halfway through his Yerba Mate when I arrive — late, conveniently blaming my tardiness on the nonexistent traffic on Highway 36. (How is he gonna know?)

Collins: I am not totally comfortable yet being on the other side of the tape recorder.

Moore: That’s funny, because I feel soooo comfortable right now. … Let’s start by you telling me about performing in Virginia.

Collins: I was asked by a friend I went to grad school with. She’s a playwright, director, actor and producer.

Moore: What was the play?

Collins: Something she wrote called “Sarah and the Dinosaur.”

Moore: For you to say yes, you had to have been at the perfect place in your life when you got that call.

Collins: It was the perfect call at the perfect time. If she had called six months earlier, or really anytime over the past 10 years, I would have said no because of my responsibilities here.

Moore: How old is your son?

Collins: He is 18. He’s going to Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.

Moore: The ethics of being a critic dictate that you would have to leave your job in order to perform again, at least locally. How hard was it to give all that up, especially after the name you had made for yourself here in the Boulder/Denver theater community over the past decade?

Collins: I didn’t think of it in those terms. In fact, I am always surprised when somebody says that I made a name for myself. Frankly — and this is terrible of me to say — but mostly what I was thinking was, “Can I make up the money that I was making reviewing theater in some other way?” I don’t know if I can.

Moore: You paint houses, right?

Collins: Yeah. And I have been busy lately.

Moore: When did you start at the Camera?

Collins: In May 2002. So I did it for 10 years and a few months.

Moore: How do you describe the experience of moving to the other side of the aisle?

Collins: It felt like coming home. But I do feel older. It’s been interesting after all this time now being seen as someone who is middle-aged.

Moore: How old you are?

Collins: I’m 49.

Moore: So what are your artistic ambitions for yourself now?

Collins: I want to work with good people on good material.

Moore: What are you going to miss the most about being a reviewer for this community?

Collins: So far, I haven’t missed it at all. But there is a pleasure in being analytical about a performance. There is a pleasure in seeing a show and trying to figure out what the heck I am going to write about. That, I may miss — at some point.

Moore: Do you miss the other types of theater-writing more, like advances and profiles?

Collins: Absolutely. My favorite part of the job was writing feature stories, and being able to engage with the people who make theater. Since I’ve gone back to acting, I’ve realized that it’s different engaging with other actors in a show you are working on together, because then they are all typically focused on problem-solving. Whereas when you are writing a story about them, they kind of open up with you, and get a little more philosophical. I will miss that the most — and I kind of already do.

Moore: Do you feel any sort of guilt for walking away? Because I feel that every day.

Collins: No, because the powers-that-be at the Camera are still committed to covering theater with (my replacement) Liza Williams. And I am still freelancing for the Camera. I’m just not writing about theater.

Moore: We’re in the exact same boat. I am freelancing for The Denver Post, but the rules are the same — anything but theater.

Collins: I am also keeping the theater listings updated on our web site.

Moore: That’s hilarious, because so am I for The Post. But only because I know that if I stop, there is no one left there to do them, and they would just go away.

Collins: Exactly.

Moore: Now that you have “crossed over,” what have you learned about the way people who make theater look at reviews?

Collins: I have purposely not engaged in that kind of conversation. It takes so much to be an actor — that’s where my focus has to be. But I would say there are probably some misperceptions about what actually goes into being a theater reviewer at the Daily Camera.

Moore: I spent a lot of time recently embedded with the making of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” for my long-form video project, and I recused myself from reviewing it or judging it for the Henry Awards, because whenever you spend a lot of time with people like that, of course you start to care for them. It’s also one of my favorite musicals. I really want it to succeed. So when opening night finally happened, it was great to just be there — and be relieved of the responsibility of being “the critic.” When I was later asked, “What do you think the reviews are going to say?” — I really didn’t have the faintest idea how it was going to be received. And that was kind of thrilling. Have you found that to be true with the shows you have acted in so far? Or do you know exactly what works and what doesn’t even better because you are living in it?

Collins: Oh, God, no. When I was in Virginia, my friend would say, “So what do you think, Mr. Theatre Critic?” and I really didn’t have a sense of how the whole show was doing. I was so focused on the things I was doing.

Moore: So does that make you develop a greater sense of empathy for the people in the creative community who are putting their whole hearts and bank accounts into these shows? They know all the trials and tribulations they have had to overcome, but we, as reviewers, are not generally supposed to know those things going in.

Collins: I have been reminded of the massive amount of work and collaboration that goes into putting on a play, absolutely. I feel like I always had empathy, but the further away you are from it, maybe some of that gets dulled a little bit. On top of that, the majority of theater done in this area is not by professionals, so they are working all day, and when they come in, they are already tired from working. And yet — here they are, putting it together. It’s really amazing.

Moore: But when your primary responsibility as a critic is to the readers of your newspaper, do you think that your empathy has ever compromised your reviews, when readers are counting on you to tell them whether, bottom line, it’s worth their $28 to go and see this play?

Collins: As a critic, my responsibility was to the readers first, for sure. But I think when it comes to empathy and understanding what it takes to put on a show – and I am sure I failed at this at times – that would come into play by my not taking any personal shots at people, or saying gratuitous things that were not necessary.

Moore: You were not the kind of guy to do that anyway.

Collins: I don’t think I was, in general, but I could go back and find times where I probably did.

Moore: But being tough is not the same thing as being discourteous.

Collins: Right. But I can remember reviews where I have later thought, “I could have said that a little differently, and gotten the same point across.” Because if I were an actor and read that about me, it would have been unnecessarily hurtful. It was beyond just saying, “This is not working.”

Moore: You know where I learned that lesson? Of all people, It was from (former Boulder’s Dinner Theatre owner) Ross Haley.

Collins: Oh yeah?

Moore: I was very, very new to reviewing, but I was determined from the beginning to try to get at least one smile out of the readers in every review I wrote. It was a way of saying, “You know, we should not all take this theater business so, so terribly seriously all the time.” I never thought that was going to be at someone’s expense, but you sometimes have to learn these lessons the hard way. And hopefully, only once. So for me, there was this dark comedy at the Nomad Theatre called “Jake’s Women.” It was basically Neil Simon reflecting on all the important women in his life. So there was this one actor on the stage, and it was like her elbows were glued to her rib cage. And she was kind of waving these outstretched arms throughout the whole thing. And the other thing was that she would never look right at the guy she was talking to. Instead she was always looking above him, like way up and into the rafters. It was distracting. I kept wondering, “What is it up there in the ceiling that she finds so fascinating?” So I thought I was being really clever when I wrote in the review, “I kept expecting somebody to toss down a baby from the burning building.” I made myself laugh when I wrote that. But it was crazy Ross Haley who called me on it, and he wasn’t even from the Nomad Theatre. But he totally blacklisted me for it. He said, “You are no longer welcome at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre.” I was blown away. I asked him, “Why? I’ve written nothing but glowing reviews for you so far.” And he said, “If you are capable of that kind of cruelty, I don’t even want to give you the  opportunity to be that cruel to one of my people.” And at the time, I was sort of seen as the nice guy on the theater beat. But it was a valuable lesson because I had not thought for two seconds about what it must have been like to be that poor woman who had to open up the paper and read what I had written about her and the burning baby. I decided right there that I didn’t want to be that guy. So, never again. I’m not going to skip saying something that needs to be said, but I am going to write it in a way that is not going to make a person never want to leave the house again.

Collins: Yeah. I remember writing something many years ago about Gary Culig, who is obviously very talented, in “Waiting for Godot” at the Bug Theatre. That was one of those I wish I could have taken back. Everything was just so loud. I probably wasn’t being gratuitous, but I think what I said was, “Every vocal choice is either soft — or foghorn loud.”  And when that came out, somebody said to me, “Geez, Mark …”

Moore: But those are our “Come to Jesus” moments.

Collins. Yeah.

Moore: You kind of have to go through those things a few times before you truly realize the power that your words have on people.

Collins: I can tell you the review I got as a student actor at CU more than 25 years ago. I can tell you down to the sentence what they wrote about me, which is kind of ridiculous. So, yeah, I get the sensitivity.

Moore: I had an experience like that when I was reviewing theater right out of college for the Littleton Independent. We covered the Loretto Heights productions, and the college students I was reviewing there were both my friends and contemporaries. They generally did excellent work. But I lost a friendship over what I thought was a very innocuous remark, and it pained me for years. Now something like 12 years go by and I run into this person, and sure enough, she could still quote these really benign words that had hurt her so badly. I thought, “Man, I don’t want anyone committing a single synapse to something I wrote when I was 21 years old. I’m not worth it.” It still freaks me out a bit. I’m sure there is part of you that is glad to be rid of that, too.

Collins: I don’t miss it. The funny thing for me was Kathryn Bernheimer reviewed me in the Camera when I was in “The Actor’s Nightmare.” I played George, and it was only the second show I had ever done. Her review said, “Mark Collins was OK, but I preferred Kevin Hart’s performance last month at the ‘blah blah blah’ theater in Denver.” And then she wrote two more sentences about how great Kevin Hart was in the other show.

Moore: So did you develop a chip on your shoulder for Kevin Hart? Did you make him pay?

Collins: There is a funny end to this story: First of all, in retrospect, which I only gained a couple of years later, I probably would have totally agreed with her. But the funny thing is, Kevin Hart and I became brothers-in-law three or four years later.

Moore: In real life?

Collins: In real life, yeah. He married my wife’s sister. So we joked about that a lot.

Moore: Isn’t that interesting? Because that points out one of the many dangers of being a theater critic in a place like Denver/Boulder as opposed to New York — Here, you just might end up being the brother-in-law of someone you review.

Collins: Yep.

Moore: That’s weird.

Collins: Yeah.

Moore: I don’t miss that. I am glad to be relieved of the pressure of knowing that if you do your job and you are honest to your visceral response to the art, somebody might get hurt — no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

Collins: I think your experience is so different from mine because of the visibility of The Post vs. the Camera. I didn’t get much feedback.

Moore: You were — you just maybe weren’t hearing it directly. And I mean that in a good way. People talked about your reviews. You were the guy with the MFA. You were the guy who had the academic credentials to be doing what you were doing — whereas, I was the dumb-ass sports writer.

Collins: I never came across anybody who didn’t have ultimate respect for you.

Moore: Oh Mark, the emails I could show you. Especially in the early years. It’s scarring, hah.

Collins: Well…

Moore: So, forget that. Let’s ask the big questions. Like, what do you think of the state of local theater criticism in the Denver/Boulder area right now?

Collins: You would think that’s something I would have an opinion on, wouldn’t you?

Moore: I would, and I’ll tell you mine. I think recently there has been an upsurge in a willingness to be tough, but I have to say I saw an awful lot of free passes in the first six months of this year. I would be reading all these reviews, thinking, “I am soooo glad I don’t have to do this anymore, because I would have had to have been much tougher.” Do you think theater criticism in this day and age is a healthy art form?

Collins: It’s changing. The fact that anybody can go online now and start a blog and get their comps and write about a show —

Moore: Is that a good thing or bad thing?

Collins: It’s a mixed bag. It’s good for the theaters to get the publicity, but for the readers? I don’t know.

Moore: When Liza Williams took your place, did you have any advice for her?

Collins: She was great about reaching out, and I really appreciated that. I just said, “You have to write for the readers. You have to be honest. Be careful not to be gratuitous.” And she’s not that way. I can tell that already.

Moore: Let’s take a moment to talk about your play, “44 Plays for 44 Presidents.” What’s this all about?

Collins: It’s literally 44 short plays, each ranging from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, about each of the presidents. Now, nobody is trying to imitate the presidents. It an ensemble piece, which is really fun. There are five actors, and the range is wild. There is some straight musical theater. There is a scene where three of us come on, and all we do is eat bread. It’s about (Millard) Fillmore, who I guess was very boring, and the writer could not find anything interesting to do, so we just state facts and eat bread. Hopefully it will be funny. It was funny last night when we finally got bread. In the Kennedy piece, no one plays Kennedy. The president’s coat is simply draped over the TV, and that’s a comment on the fact that Kennedy was the first media president.

Moore: What’s your favorite part?

Collins: William Howard Taft. I get to wear a fat suit and be fed applesauce and spit it and throw a tantrum.

Moore: This is why you left the Boulder Daily Camera.

Collins: Yeah. I get to spit applesauce at another actor.

Moore: What’s funny about that is that, as a theater critic, I used to do that all the time. … So how many roles do you play?

Collins: There are about 150 roles, and we each play probably 30 to 35.

Moore: I am kind of encouraged and shocked at how much political theater is being offered in Colorado this month, especially because any theater that attempted to be political in the fall of 2008 tanked. How is this going to be different?

Collins: It would not be right for me to say it’s not political, but it’s just a whole bunch of fun. It has the feel of an improv comedy show, and nobody comes off unscathed, except for maybe George Washington. … Actually, Richard Nixon comes off pretty good, too.

Moore: I’ll be curious to see how you pull that off.

Collins: Michelle McHugh Moore plays him, and she’s great.

Moore: So how much fun are you having?

Collins: I am having a blast. I don’t miss the theater reviewing at all. I am really enjoying making theater much more.

Moore: Do you feel like a burden has been lifted?

Collins: Not so much a burden as I would say … this just fits me better.

Moore: We’ll have to circle back around with you in a few weeks and ask how it feels to be reviewed by your old paper.

Collins: I’m not going to read the review.

Moore: You’re not?

Collins: Hell, no. I am smarter than that.

Moore: Are you sure you’re not going to be one of these actors who says they never read the review … but secretly they do?

Collins: Probably. But for right now, I am going to say that I am not going to read the review. … Unless I get a sense on Facebook that it’s positive — then I will read it.

Moore: That’s not a bad way to do it.

“44 Plays for 44 Presidents”: Ticket information

The cast of “44 Plays for 44 Presidents,” from left: Chanel Karimkhani, Bradley Spann, Ali Janes-Paulsen, Mark Collins and Michelle McHugh Moore.

 

Cast: Michelle McHugh Moore, Chanel Karimkhani, Bradley Spann, Ali Janes-Paulsen and Mark Collins.

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through Nov. 3

Where: At the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

Info: 303-442-0234 or square product’s home page

Colorado theater companies join forces for military families

Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.

 

By John Moore

Oct. 18, 2012

A new national initiative will be announced tomorrow that will recognize “the profound contributions of military service families,” and seven Colorado theater companies are helping to lead the way.

The Blue Star Theatres program, founded by the national Theatre Communications Group service organization, will team 57 of its member companies around the country, offering creative ways for military personnel and their families to engage in the creative arts, and seeks to build stronger connections between theaters, military families and their communities.

Representing Colorado the Arvada Center, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Creede Repertory Theatre, Curious Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company, TheatreWorks of  Colorado Springs and Theatre Aspen. That’s second only to California, with eight.

According to a TCG statement:

“Blue Star Theatres will build on the work already occurring at many theaters nationwide, including: playwriting classes to empower creative expression for veterans; community discussions on plays whose themes resonate with military families; free or discounted ticket programs; job postings and casting notices on military bases; and much more. TCG and Blue Star Families will connect theaters with local bases, and develop and disseminate best-practices for engaging with deployed personnel, veterans and service families.”

 

At 2:30 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 19), a press conference will be held at the Ricketson Theatre in the Denver Performing Complex as part of this week’s  League of Resident Theatre’s (LORT) annual conference. It will be conducted by TCG executive director Teresa Eyring, along with Sheri Lapan, senior director of  Blue Star Families LORT president Tim Shields and Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director Kent Thompson.

Representing the military will be Colonel Loren “Skip” Johnson of the Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.

“We’re grateful that so many LORT and TCG member theaters  have stepped up to give back to our service members and their families,” Eyring said in a statement.  “Theater can provide an invaluable means of integrating military families into our communities while helping us process the consequences of these long years of war.”

Added Shields, who is also managing director of the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J.: “I’m honored to represent the 39 LORT theaters that have signed on to participate. Theater remains a place in our communities where all can gather to have a common experience; to participate in an art form that through the stories it tells provides such deeply felt emotion and entertainment.

Participating Blue Star Theatres:

2nd Story (Rhode Island)
Actors Theatre of Louisville (Kentucky)
Alliance Theatre (Georgia)
American Conservatory Theater (California)
American Repertory Theater (Massachusetts)
Arena Stage (Washington, D.C.)
Arkansas Repertory Theatre
Artists Repertory Theatre (Oregon)
Arvada Center
Asolo Repertory (Florida)
Barter Theatre (Virginia)
Berkeley Repertory Theatre (California)
Burning Coal Theatre Company (North Carolina)
California Shakespeare Theater (California)
Center Theatre Group (California)
Childsplay (Arizona)
Cincinnati Playhouse
Cleveland Play House
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
Coterie Theatre (Missouri)
Court Theatre (Ilinois)
Creede Repertory Theatre
Curious Theatre
Dallas Theater Center
Denver Center Theatre Company
Florida Studio Theatre
Folger Theatre (Washington, D.C.)
Ford’s Theatre (Washington, D.C.)
Gamm Theatre (Rhode Island)
Geffen Playhouse (California)
Geva Theatre Center (New York)
Goodman Theatre (Illinois)
Hartford Stage (Connecticut)
HERE Arts Center (New York)
Kansas City Repertory Theatre
La Jolla Playhouse (California)
Lincoln Center Theater (New York)
McCarter Theatre Center (New Jersey)
Old Globe (California)
Penobscot Theatre Company (Maine)
People’s Light and Theatre (Pennsylvania)
Pittsburgh Public Theater
PlayMakers Repertory Company (North Carolina)
Portland Center Stage (Oregon)
Seattle Repertory Theatre (Washington)
Signature Theatre (Virginia)
South Coast Repertory (California)
Stages Theatre Company (Minnesota)
Syracuse Stage (New York)
TheatreWorks (Colorado Springs)
Theatre Aspen
Trinity Repertory Company (Rhode Island)
Two River Theater Company (New Jersey)
Virginia Stage Company (Virginia)
William Inge Center for the Arts (Kansas)
Wilma Theater (Pennsylvania)
Yale Repertory (Connecticut)

 

Video, photo coverage: “After the Darklights” web-series launch party

By John Moore

Oct. 10, 2012

The 10-minute pilot episode of “After the Darklights,” a new post-apocalyptic web series written and directed by Denver’s Michael Morgan, was launched today as a free online offering. The video posted above chronicles the launch party held at the Laundry on Lawrence artists collective at 27th and Lawrence streets in the RiNo neighborhood just north of downtown. The video posted below is the actual pilot episode.

Morgan, also a local actor who will next appear in Curious Theatre’s “Time Stands Still,” opening Nov. 3, filmed the pilot with an all-local cast and crew that includes Emily Paton Davies, Leah Watson, Josh Hartwell, Brian Landis Folkins, Pamela McCreary, Mike Marlow, Chuck Fiorella, Channel 9 news anchor Kirk Montgomery and more. The series is produced by Brian Landis Folkins, who also appears in the series. Future episodes will feature Karen Slack, Jude Moran, Jim Hunt and others. Specials effects were designed by nationally recognized make-up artist Todd Debreceni.

Here is the official summary statement describing “After the Darklights,” which is most easily categorized as a zombie tale — but the undead evil ones here are better described as “ferals”:

The world as we knew it ended the night the lights came. There were a few of us who missed their coming. The few survivors. The rest who watched fell where they stood in the glow of the unexplainable strobing and fading in the sky. Most died. But not all. Many rose, bloody, shaking. Changed. Like animals. Ravenous animals. The last of us woke to a world where the air hurt to breathe, the sun burned you alive in minutes, and the risen hid in the shadows, waiting for nightfall, waiting to hunt. Waiting to feed. We are the last of who we once were, and we’re fighting every minute against a world that wants us dead…

The creative team has launched a $20,000 online fundraising campaign to help pay for the filming of the next several episodes.

Look for “After the Darklights” to be featured on the Friday (Oct. 12) episode of “In Focus with Eden Lane,” airing in Denver at 7 p.m. on Colorado Public Television Channel 12.

 

 

Photos from the Oct. 7 launch party:

Emily Paton Davies and Mike Marlow. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.

 

Elgin Kelley, director/writer Michael Morgan and Cat Tobiasson at Monday’s launch party for “After the Darklights.” Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.

 

Full disclosure: The author of this article has a cameo in the pilot episode of “After the Darklights” as a dead body. John Moore was made that way by a feral Pamela McCreary. An inauspicious film debut for Moore.

 

Director/writer Michael Morgan was joined by Denver Comic Con director Charlie LaGreca at Sunday’s launch party. Photo by John Moore.

 

Director/writer Michael Morgan is interviewed by Eden Lane for an episode of “In Focus with Eden Lane” that airs at 7 p.m. Friday (Oct. 12) on Channel 12. Photo by John Moore.

 

A still from the pilot episode of “After the Darklights” featuring actor Josh Hartwell. Photo by John Moore.

A still from the pilot episode of “After the Darklights” featuring Emily Paton Davies. Photo by John Moore.

Actor Mike Marlow. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.

 

“Feral” Pamela McCreary and feral flee-er Emily Paton Davies. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.

 

Actor Leah Watson. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.

 

“After the Darklights” producer Brian Landis Folkins with director/writer Michael Morgan.

A still from the pilot episode of “After the Darklights” featuring actor Emily Paton Davies.Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.

Review: “Memphis” lifts you higher and higher

Felicia Boswell as Felicia and Bryan Fenkart as Huey in “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

By John Moore

Oct. 10, 2012

“Memphis” is a sparkling Broadway musical that, to start, takes on race relations in almost the vein of a superficial fairy tale: A well-meaning white man wanders into the danger of a blues club on the dark side of town with all the blissful naivete of Larry Kroger in “Animal House.” The power of music to heal centuries-old hate and social injustice becomes evident in the story’s first fanciful few minutes. We know where this is going.

Actually, we don’t.

Give writer Joe DiPietro some credit: Like any good grim (or Grimm) fairy tale, “Memphis” spreads frightening violence and surprisingly complex moral quandaries like bread crumbs along its unpredictable way. But it’s staged within the palatable structure of a traditional Broadway musical, which is largely why, paired with its gravity-defying choreography, soulful original score and huge heart, “Memphis” won the 2010 Tony Award for best musical.

When it won, it was the favorite, but not necessarily the obvious pick. It was seen then as the safe choice up against form-bending new musicals like “Fela!” and “American Idiot.” It was a worthy choice, but I preferred “Fela” — and it’s a shame the closest we may ever come to seeing that great musical about the legendary Afrobeat pioneer in Denver was a Boulder concert last March by his son, Seun Kuti.

But then came a surprisingly powerful simulcast of a Broadway performance of “Memphis” that was beamed to movie theaters nationwide, bringing a wall-sized immediacy to the racial stakes at play. “Memphis” is now touring the country, stopping in Denver through Oct. 21, and the biggest surprise might be how this visiting production manages to strike an even more resonant chord – both emotionally and vocally – than the dynamite original Broadway cast.

Check that. The biggest surprise, hands down, is that the Tony-winning original score was written by Dave Bryan, best known as the keyboard player for the big-hair metal band Bon Jovi. I overheard an older audience member at Tuesday’s opening performance in Denver  commenting on how surprised she was that she hadn’t heard the infectious pop ditty “Someday” growing up. She didn’t because she couldn’t. The song didn’t exist then. At a time when the easy route to Broadway is to populate your musical with existing, known pop sings like “Rock of Ages,” this one boldly writes its own period pop.

Like Jackie Wilson’s beloved song, this musical keeps lifting you “higher and higher” … and maybe because it doesn’t rely on existing songs like “Higher and Higher” to make its case. As Bon Jovi namesake Jon Bon Jovi himself said, Bryan’s house-imploding climactic ode “Memphis Lives in Me” “is the greatest song Elton John never sung.”

The touring cast is remarkable, though with four understudies on Tuesday, the staging was unsteady in brief places. Honestly, I never thought any woman could ever touch what Montego Glover pulled off as Felicia on Broadway, but touring star Felicia Boswell made it plain Tuesday that both women are clearly touched by some higher power.

Felicia (the character) is a young black singer with no chance of having her voice heard in 1950s Memphis outside her Sunday church service. Not until a renegade white DJ named Huey (loosely based on Dewey Phillips), well … wanders into her brother’s all-black club and promises to get her heard on middle-of-the-dial mainstream Memphis radio stations. Boswell presents a more hardened and opportunistic Felicia who understands from the start that stardom and freedom from the stifling hometown her lover is deeply rooted to will come at a profound cost — and the choices she makes may surprise you.

She is joined by co-star Bryan Fenkart, who, like Boswell, was a standby in the Broadway company of “Memphis.” Both were promoted to leading roles for this national touring production.

Felicia Boswell as Felicia in “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Fenkart is a poor sot who’s cursed by the physical inability to believably embody the short, odd-looking (and odd-sounding) man the character of Huey the DJ is often described to be. It’s curious whenever Hugo is referred to as a strange-looking man when, bizarre fashion sense notwithstanding, Fenkart is clearly cut from the cloth of the classic Broadway leading man. Well, there are curses and there are curses, I guess. Theater requires some  suspension of disbelief, so it’s best to just let that ride. Like Boswell, Fenkart is an accomplished singer who achieves emotional highs and lows as an actor with the same kind of range that a four-octave singer hits notes. Chad Kimball, who originated the role on Broadway, deserved his Tony nomination, despite employing a spoken cadence that seemed bent on intentionally alienating audiences. But even performing in a theater twice as big as Broadway, Fenkart connects with his love interest, and his audience, in a singular way.

Another standout is Julie Johnson as Huey’s mother, whose racism is initially sold as pure Southern comic caricature. But the audience’s laughter quickly shifts to justifiable seething and finally to catharsis as her Gladys slowly changes her deeply-seeded ways.

Having seen “Memphis” in three iterations now, I had no intention of reviewing this national touring production. But damn it to Jackson, “Memphis” had me tearing up again at its not-so-obvious climax. That, I figure, is reason enough to want to help spread its musical gospel.

John Moore was the theater critic at The Denver Post from 2001-11, and in 2011 was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in America by American Theatre magazine.

 

Ticket information:

When: Through Oct. 21

Where: Buell Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th & Curtis streets.

Tickets: $25-$105 

Contact: denvercenter.org or 303-893-4100

 

More coverage:

“Memphis” on the movie screen: Is it better than Broadway?

John Moore’s Broadway review of “Memphis” (originally published in The Denver Post on June 10, 2010)

Quote: “Everybody wants to be black on a Saturday night.”

Think of it as “Hairspray” — with a different kind of heft. Not the heft of that little fat girl who singlehandedly integrated Baltimore with the swivel of her John Waters hip. “Memphis” instead tells the tale of the first white DJ (loosely based on Dewey Phillips) to put so-called “race” music on mainstream radio in 1950s Memphis, to both his great wealth and peril. This musical has everything Broadway audiences have always loved — showstopping, singable songs set to fantastic choreography and the kind of story from our recent past that leaves us feeling slightly superior about how far we’ve come since the bad old days. Despite the truly wrenching potential of this story — it includes interracial love, racism, violence and professional betrayal — it’s palatably told here, straight down the middle of the road, just like Broadway audiences usually want it. (It’s written by Joe DiPietro of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”). What makes it a powerful musical to be truly reckoned with is its irresistible score. The songs are so authentic to the period, you may not believe this is all-original power-pop, R&B and gospel written by, of all people, David Bryan of Bon Jovi.

Colorado connection: Montego Glover, a favorite to win the best-actress Tony, appeared in the Arvada Center’s “Putting it Together.”

 

National touring production of “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

Felicia Boswell and the national touring production of “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

Bryan Fenkart as Huey in “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

Julie Johnson as Huey’s mother, Gladys, in the national touring production of “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

National touring production of “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Video: The making of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” Part 5: “Jackson Has It Going On”

Director Ben Dicke takes a moment in the Aurora Fox parking lot before taking to the stage in the delayed opening-night performance of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” on Sept. Sept. 27, 2012. Photo by John Moore

 

By John Moore

Oct. 9, 2012

Part 5: Jackson Has It Going On

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/starring actor.  Part 5, the final chapter, chronicles the triumphant rescheduled opening night, three weeks later than originally planned. Running time: 11 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

Podcast: Sarah Ruhl coming to Colorado Springs on Oct. 8

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center recently staged Sarah Ruhl’s “In the Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play.”

 

By John Moore

Oct. 4, 2012

Sarah Ruhl, one of America’s most produced playwrights, is coming to Colorado Springs’ TheatreWorks for a free evening of discussion on Monday, Oct. 8. Ruhl’s “The Clean House,” “Eurydice” and “In the Next Room, Or  The Vibrator Play,” have been produced at the Denver Center, Curious Theatre, Equinox,  TheatreWorks and other theaters throughout Colorado.

Ruhl, who went to Brown University as a member of “Paula’s Army” – playwrights who studied under Paula Vogel (“How I Learned to Drive”), will discuss her career and the American theater scene as part of TheatreWorks’ free Prologue Lecture Series at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Kevin Landis’ interview with Sarah Ruhl

Listen to host Kevin Landis’ audio podcast interview with Sarah Ruhl in advance of here appearance in Colorado here.

Sarah Ruhl Prologue Series Lecture
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8
Host: Kevin Landis
Price: FREE
Age suitability: Teens and up
Note: The Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater is located at the corner of Union and Austin Bluffs Parkway on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus.
Plays by Sarah Ruhl:

 

Video: The making of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” Part 4: “This Is Happening”

Part 4: This is Happening

The day after Ben Dicke was released from the hospital, the cast met to discuss whether to postpone the run until January, or come back as soon as it was medically possible for Dicke. 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/starring actor. Part 4 chronicles the crucial decision-making in the wake of the accident, and why and how this show must go on. Running time: 10 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

News: Town Hall executive director Nancy Stalf resigns

Nancy Stalf

The board of directors for the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center has accepted the resignation of executive director Nancy Stalf, effective at the end of November. Stalf  has been E.D. since October 2008 and is leaving to pursue other professional opportunities, according to a press release issued by Town Hall.

“We appreciate the leadership that Nancy Stalf has provided Town Hall Arts Center in the four years she has been with us,” said board president Jeff Kirkendall. “We are confident that, given the stability and positive reputation that Town Hall Arts Center has developed in recent years, we will be able to attract highly qualified candidates for the position.”

The board has formed a search committee and will publish a position announcement “in the near future.”

Send inquiries to Kirkendall at jeff@developingequities.com

 

Video: Churchill, Barcelona and Navy at the Bluebird Theater

By John Moore

Oct. 1, 2012

Churchill celebrated its recent major-label signing with two headlining shows at the Bluebird Theater in Denver on Sept. 29-30, 2012. On Day 2, the set included “Ark in a Flood,” above. The lineup included Navy and Barcelona. Video by John Moore.

Barcelona:

Seattle’s Barcelona played in support of Denver’s Churchill at the Bluebird Theater on Sept. 30, 2012. Video by John Moore

 

Navy:

The new band Navy fronted by Dan Craig played in support of Denver’s Churchill at the Bluebird Theater on Sept. 30, 2012. Members include Nathan Meese (The Centennial) and Tyler Rima and Joe Richmond of Churchill. Joining in for this song is Churchill’s Tim Bruns. Video by John Moore

 

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

Photos from Sept. 30 at the Bluebird Theater:

Tim Bruns and Bethany Kelly of Churchill took to the balcony of the Bluebird Theater. Photo by John Moore.

Churchill played two sold-out shows at the Bluebird Theater on Sept. 29-30. Photo by John Moore.

Tyler Rima of Churchill playing an opening set with Navy. Photo by John Moore.

Nathan Meese of The Centennial and Navy joined Churchill for its set on Sept. 30 at the Bluebird. Photo by John Moore.

Tim Bruns and Bethany Kelly of Churchill took to the balcony of the Bluebird Theater. Photo by John Moore.

Tim Bruns and Bethany Kelly of Churchill took to the balcony of the Bluebird Theater. Photo by John Moore.

Churchill played the Bluebird on Sept. 30. Photo by John Moore.

Video: A rocking Curtain Call for Aurora Fox’s ‘Picasso’

Not every Curtain Call is as fun as this one for “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” presented by Ashton Entertainment at the Aurora Fox Theatre. Performers include Johnny Barber, Eric Mather, Benjamin Cowhick, Steef Sealy, Tupper Cullum, Jack Wefso, Kurt Brighton and Talia Liccardello. Info:  Through Oct. 14. Info: 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org. Video by John Moore.

Posted with permission of producer John Ashton.

 

Benjamin Cowhick and Jack Wefso in “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” Photo courtesy Aurora Fox.