Former LIDA Project warehouse theater leveled

The former LIDA Project warehouse theater in the process of being taken down. Photo by Brian Freeland.

 

By John Moore

Nov. 30, 2012

From The LIDA Project’s “The Balcony.”

Add the former LIDA Project warehouse theater to the growing list of former Denver theater spaces.

Over the past three weeks, crews have meticulously dismantled the warehouse theater that housed Denver’s only experimental theater company from 2001-11. It was located next to the Mercury Cafe at 2180 Stout St.

The good news is that, unlike several other recent demises such as the Paragon Theatre, Victorian Playhouse and others, the 18-year-old LIDA Project lives on as the cornerstone tenant of the Laundry on Lawrence arts collective at 2701 Lawrence St. Its next freakout will be “R.U.R./LOL,” an original work based on a 1920 Czech science-fiction play called” Rossum’s Universal Robots,” which introduced the word “robot” into the lexicon. It plays Feb. 8-March 2, 2013.

Warehouse owner Candy Cebula has sold the former warehouse space to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, which intends to put up another mixed-use building like “The Renaissance” directly to the west across Stout street. It will feature multi-unit residences including a mix of low income and high-income housing options. The main level will be a health clinic.

The warehouse space was the stuff of sketchy theatrical legend – both on and off stage. Theater crowds weren’t always lined up out the door, but city inspectors were regular visitors. In the end, the city’s decree that Cebula install at least four more toilets sealed the warehouse’s fate.

Even though LIDA Project founder Brian Freeland was the tenant, what that really meant was it would be Freeland’s burden to foot the cost. “And I wasn’t going to fundraise $50,000 to put in four additional stalls in a building we didn’t even  own,” he said.

There was always talk of electrical and roof issues. At one point, the city ordered a brief shutdown for improvements. “After we got busted, the city put us in limbo,” said Freeland. “They gave us a chance to fix things. They just weren’t always happy we weren’t fixing things on their timeline.”

Freeland doesn’t claim LIDA was all-legal all the time …. “But we were legal for an awful lot of it,” he said with a smile.

He emphasizes that public safety was never even remotely an issue. His problem — like the one that quickly felled Paragon Theatre after it moved into a new theater space a block away — was toilets. Apparently, in order to make art, you have to have them. How many is based on total square footage and presumed potential  attendance — not necessarily on how many actually show up.

Still, Freeland already misses the warehouse. His sentimental favorite production was LIDA’s multi-level staging of Jean Genet’s “The Balcony,” translated by  Jean-Claude van Itallie. “Out of everything we did, that’s what the space was most meant for,” he said.

Other Freeland favorites include “365 Days/365 Plays,” “Bingo Boyz: Columbine” and an expressionistic “Our Town,” in which not one person in Grover’s Corner ever directly looked at another. “That was our 9/11 response,” said Freeland. “The expressionistic style emphasizes disconnect. It was presentational in form. So it wasn’t that the characters weren’t allowed to look at each other —  it’s that all the action was intentionally going out toward the audience.”

“Manson Family Values” earned myself threats from the wife of imprisoned Manson murderer Bobby Beausoleil (she said my story would threaten his parole) and earned Freeland a personal visit from Manson family member Dennis Rice. His wife worked for an airline, so when he saw my story about the play in The Denver Post, Rice flew to Denver from Arizona the next day to see it. Freeland had Rice lead two wild audience talkbacks — at his request.

“The warehouse was one place where we could take water hoses and hose down audiences,” Freeland said. “We could throw wine and beer and all kinds of viscous fluids all around. There was fire and drumming. It was so wet and raunchy and permissive at times … I don’t think we could have done any of that at a traditional theater.”

LIDA Project’s mission statement:

The LIDA Project is a meta-media art collective with a strong emphasis on live performance. Our goal is to present works that experiment and challenge the structure and presentation of performance while strengthening culture, community, and artistic growth. Working as a collaborative group of artists The LIDA Project intends to promote and present works of the highest integrity and expressiveness without yielding to conventional presentation and stereotypes.

 Info:

At the Laundry on Lawrence (the theater itself is called work/space), 2701 Lawrence St., 720-221-3821, or www.lida.org

 

The former LIDA Project warehouse theater has been taken down to the ground. Photo by John Moore.

Arvada Center joins Broadway bigshots, Perez Hilton on “Carols for a Cure” CD

By John Moore

Nov. 29, 2012

The Arvada Center has the distinction of being one of only two regional theaters in the country invited to join current Broadway companies performing on the 14th annual “Carols for a Cure” double-CD, a mix of holiday classics and original material benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Right alongside the likes of Ricky Martin, Cyndi Lauper and Perez Hilton, there is the Arvada Center’s cast of the just-opened “Miracle on 34th Street” singing “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.”

The 2012 CD features the Broadway companies of “Newsies,” “Evita,” “Once,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Jersey Boys,” among others. Perez Hilton is currently making his professional theatrical debut performing in the off-Broadway revue “NEWSical The Musical.”

“Carols for a Cure” can be purchased for $20 at any performance of “Miracle on 34th Street,” running through Dec. 23 at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. (720-898-7200 or the arvada center’s home page). Start times vary, but the show, a musical variation of the classic film with music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson (“The Music Man”),  generally begins at either 6:30 or 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; as well as 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. Check the web site for exact dates and times.

The CD also can be ordered for $23 online at broadwaycares.org or by calling 212-840-0770, ext. 238, from 8 a.m. -3 p.m. MST.

Lauper, who wrote the music for “Kinky Boots,” opening on Broadway this spring with Denver’s Andy Kelso and Annaleigh Ashford in the cast, sings “Blue Christmas” on the CD. Martin, who plays Che in “Evita,” is joined by Elana Roger (Evita), Michael Cerveris (Peron) and Max von Essen (Magaldi) singing “We Three Kings/Los Reyes Magos.” Broadway legend Chita Rivera joins Stephanie J. Block, Jim Norton, and others from “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” singing “Good Queen Wenceslas.” Hugh Panaro (“The Phantom of the Opera”) sings with his castmates on an original song titled “Outside the Box.”

The “Carols for a Cure” series has raised more than $3 million since 1999, providing support and care for those living with AIDS, as well as lending support to women’s health issues. A portion of the proceeds will go directly to Denver’s Project Angel Heart, which provides meals to homebound AIDS patients.

“Carols for a Cure” song list:

Disc 1:
LOS TRES REYES MAGOS- Evita featuring Ricky Martin and Elena Roger
CALL YOUR MOM- Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ALONE ON CHRISTMAS- Chaplin
FOR MY CHILD’S FIRST CHANUKAH- Lisa Yaeger
GOD REST YE, MERRY GENTLEMEN- Newsies
GOOD QUEEN WENCESLAS- The Mystery of Edwin Drood
THE WEXFORD CAROL- Once
DOMINICK THE DONKEY- Peter and the Starcatcher
OUTSIDE THE BOX- The Phantom of the Opera
THE WREATH OF KINDNESS- The Lion King
BLUE CHRISTMAS- Kinky Boots featuring Cyndi Lauper

Disc 2:
ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH- Bring it On
A PEREZ HILTON CHRISTMAS – featuring Perez Hilton, NEWSical The Musical
NYE@THE VENUS CLUB- Rock of Ages
THE BIRTHDAY OF A KING- Mary Poppins
SOUL CAKE- Mamma Mia!
KEEP THE HOME FIRES BURNING- Rebecca
O HOLY NIGHT- Wicked
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING- I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at the John W. Engeman Theatre
JOLLY OLD ST. NICHOLAS- Miracle on 34th Street at The Arvada Center
HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE BABY/GLORY TO THE NEWBORN KING- Jersey Boys

Another way to support those in need this holiday season:

Support KUSA entertainment reporter Kirk Montgomery’s second CD benefiting 9Cares/Colorado Shares: “Opie Gone Bad – Another Christmas.”

The CD featuring Grammy winner Dianne Reeves, American Idol’s Ace Young and Dianna DeGarmo, as well as Chris Daniels, Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee, actor Pam Grier, members of Phamaly Theatre Company and Kirk himself.

The CD is available at all King Soopers stores.

 

 

 

Video: The English Beat at the Gothic Theatre

The English Beat performs “I’ll Take You There” at the Gothic Theatre Nov. 18, 2012.

Dave Wakeling: “As far I was concerned, the 1980s were two or three of the best years of my life.”

Video by John Moore’s crappy iPhone.

 

The English Beat performs at the Gothic Theatre Nov. 18, 2012. Photo by John Moore.

Colorado New Play Summit taps Laura Eason, Helen Thorpe, Karen Zacarías and more

Karen Zacarías’ “Mariela in the Desert” was performed by the Denver Center Theatre Company in 2010. Photo by Terry Shapiro.

By John Moore

Nov. 19, 2012

The lineup for the Denver Center Theatre Company’s 8th Annual Colorado New Play Summit in February will include the newest work by rising playwriting star Laura Eason, a graduate of Cherry Creek High School, and a collaboration between former Colorado First Lady Helen Thorpe and Karen Zacarías.

Eason’s adaptation of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” was staged by the DCTC last November, and in March was performed at New York’s New Victory Theatre. Her breakthrough play, “Sex With Strangers,” just bowed in Australia. The DCTC presented Zacarías’ “Mariela in the Desert” in 2010.

According to the DCTC’s announcement, the New Play Summit will feature topics ranging from immigration assimilation to a modern take on Homer’s “The Odyssey,” and a bawdy comedy about a man dragged into a drag act. The selections:

  • “The Most Deserving,” by Catherine Trieschmann (author of the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s just-closed “How the World Began”)
  • “The Legend of Georgia McBride” by Matthew Lopez
  • “The Vast In-Between” by  Laura Eason
  • Karen Zacarías “Just Like Us” (based on the best-seller by  Thorpe)
  • “Black Odyssey,” by Marcus Gardle

Laura Eason graduated from Cherry Creek High School.

The New Play Summit will take place Feb. 8-10, 2013. All plays above will get professional staged readings, while two selections from last year’s fest: “Ed, Downloaded,” and “Grace, Or the Art of Climbing,” will be fully staged.

Members of the public are invited to join with artistic directors, literary managers, dramaturgs, directors, and media representatives, who travel from across the country to attend what under artistic director Kent Thompson and director of new-play development Bruce K. Sevy has come to be regarded as one the nation’s leading new-play festivals.

Full Summit passes are available for purchase now. Tickets to individual readings will be available in early January. Visit www.denvercenter.org/summit  or call 303-893-6030.

Here are unedited excerpts from the company announcement:

Staged reading

THE MOST DESERVING

By Catherine Trieschmann

Tasked with awarding $20,000 to a deserving and needy local artist who “demonstrates an underrepresented American voice,” a small town arts council in Ellis County, Kansas, comically erupts into chaos.  Should the award go to a high school teacher/photographer of modest talent or to the self-taught African-American artist who creates controversial religious figures out of trash? The Most Deserving is a satirical, insightful look at how the arts collide with politics, self-interest, taste, relationships, egos, and gossip.

Over the past decade, Catherine Trieschmann has steadily risen through the ranks of today’s playwrights, seeing her work come to life on stages across the country and overseas in London and Sydney. Her plays include The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock, Crooked, How the World Began, and Hot Georgia Sunday. She has received the Weissberger Award, the Otis Guerney New Voices Playwriting Award from the Inge Theatre Festival, and the Edgerton New Play Award. Trieschmann also wrote the screen play for the film Angels Crest, which premiered at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival before being released by Magnolia Pictures. Originally from Athens, Georgia, Trieschmann now resides in Hays, Kansas, a small town that has heavily influenced her latest works, How the World Began and The Most Deserving.

 

Staged reading

THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE

By Matthew Lopez

He’s young, he’s broke, his landlord’s knocking at the door, and he’s just found out his wife is going to have a baby. To make matters even more desperate, Casey is fired from his gig as an Elvis impersonator in a run-down, small town Florida bar. When the bar owner brings in a B-level drag show to replace his act, Casey finds that he has a whole lot to learn about show business―and himself. From one of the most-produced playwrights of the year, The Legend of Georgia McBride is a joyous, bawdy comedy with a ton of music and a great big heart.

Matthew Lopez is one of the brightest rising stars in the playwriting community today. Lopez’s debut production, The Whipping Man, premiered Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2011, and earned the playwright the John Gassner Playwriting Award from the Outer Critics Circle. Prior to New York, the play was presented at Luna Stage, Penumbra Theatre Company, Barrington Stage Company, and the Old Globe in San Diego, where he is currently Artist-in-Residence. It has become one of the more regularly produced new American plays with productions scheduled at over a dozen theatres across the country in 2012. His play Somewhere received its world premiere last autumn at the Old Globe, directed by Giovanna Sardelli, and will be presented at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, CA in 2013 with Ms. Sardelli directing again.  In addition to his residency at the Globe, Lopez is commissioned by Roundabout Theatre Company, is a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect, and is a recent member of the Ars Nova Play Group.

Staged reading

THE VAST IN-BETWEEN

By Laura Eason

Cate becomes obsessed with the man down the street who is exposed for having maintained two families in two different cities for years.  Then her own marriage becomes strained when her unemployed husband refuses to compromise in his job search, and she finds herself being drawn into her own possible double life.  A candid look at relationships and marriage in today’s troubled economy.

Laura Eason has been nominated for seven Chicago Awards, winning two for Best New Work (In the Eye of the Beholder) and Best Adaptation (The Old Curiosity Shop). Her large collection of original works and adaptations has been workshopped and produced around the U.S. and her 2011 production Sex with Strangers made its way to Australia’s Sydney Theatre Company. Eason also served as the Artistic Director of the 2011 Regional Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago for six years.

The Vast In-Between was workshopped at the Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival  in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It is a Denver Center commission.

 

Staged reading

JUST LIKE US

Based on the book by Helen Thorpe

Adapted by Karen Zacarías

Based on Helen Thorpe’s bestselling book, Karen Zacarías’ play follows four Latina girls in Denver, two who are documented and two who are not, as they complete their final year of high school, then move through college and into the world. Their close-knit friendships begin to unravel as opportunities open or close for each girl according to her immigration status. When a political firestorm arises in the wake of the shooting of a policeman, their situations are thrown into even bolder relief. Just Like Us grapples with some essential questions: Who is an American? Who gets to live in America? What happens when we don’t agree?

Karen Zacarías’ plays have been produced in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean. Her awards include the 2010 Steinberg Citation for Best New Play (Legacy of Light), the National Francesca Primus Prize (Mariela in the Desert), the New Voices Award, the National Latino Play Award, the ATT/TCG First Stages Award, and Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play (The Sins of Sor Juana). She has been  commissioned by The Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, The Goodman Theatre, The Denver Center, Alliance Theatre, Round House Theatre, Imagination Stage, Berkshire Theatre Festival, South Coast Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, The Arden, Cleveland Playhouse, San Jose Rep, and others. Zacarías is founder of the award-winning arts program Young Playwrights’ Theater which has served over 75,000 children.

Helen Thorpe was born in London and grew up in Medford, New Jersey. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, and The Texas Observer. Thorpe has worked for Texas Monthly, The New York Observer, and The New Yorker, where she wrote “Talk of the Town” stories. She is the former First Lady of Colorado.  Just Like Us is her first book.

Just Like Us was recently workshopped by DCTC in Los Angeles. It is a Denver Center commission.

Staged reading

BLACK ODYSSEY

By Marcus Gardley

Playwright Marcus Gardley magically re-casts Homer’s Odysseus as a Black soldier returning home from a harrowing tour in the Gulf War.  The great Greek archetypes reverberate with new world African-American culture as Gardley fuses modern reality with ancient myth in this gripping new play.

Marcus Gardley’s plays have been produced throughout the U.S. His drama Every Tongue Confess premiered at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. in 2010, and was nominated for the Steinberg New Play Award, the Charles MacArthur Award, and received the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. His musical On the Levee premiered in 2010 at LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater in New York and was nominated for 11 Audelco Awards, including Outstanding Playwright. He is the recipient of a Helen Merrill Award, a Kesselring Honor, the Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Award, the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Scholarship, the ASCAP Cole Porter Award, and the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels award for Mid-Career Playwright.

Black Odyssey is a Denver Center commission.


World Premiere – Mainstage production

GRACE, OR THE ART OF CLIMBING

by Lauren Feldman

Directed by Mike Donahue

In this captivating tale of a reluctant young athlete, rock climbing is both metaphor and action.  Emm struggles with doubt, depression, and her own demons as she trains mind, body, and spirit for a world climbing competition.

Lauren Feldman’s plays have been produced throughout the U.S. and at the Royal Court Theatre in London. She was one of two Americans in the Royal Court Theatre’s EXPOSURE 2000: “Crossing the Borders” project, and one of four Americans in World Interplay 2004, the international festival of young playwrights held in Australia every other year. A two-time Downstage Miami Playwriting Fellow, she has worked with Arthur Kopit and Tina Howe. Grace, or The Art of Climbing was workshopped at the 2012 Colorado New Play Summit.

World Premiere – Mainstage production

ED, DOWNLOADED

by Michael Mitnick

Directed by Sam Buntrock

Videography by Charlie I. Miller

This intriguing new comedic drama, set sometime in the not too distant future, tells the story of Ed, who is dying.  Given a chance to be immortal, Ed selects the trendy procedure of having his brain downloaded. He’s allowed ten memories to accompany him into eternity. But when his girlfriend discovers that Ed has chosen moments spent with another woman, she decides to intervene.

This arresting new work will be directed by Sam Buntrock who directed the first West End revival of the musical Sunday in the Park with George. This transfer from London’s Menier Chocolate Factory studio theatre went on to take Broadway by storm with its highly innovative use of integrative onstage video projections, winning the 32-year-old director stellar reviews in both the UK and America, and Olivier, Tony, and Drama Desk award nominations. Playwright Michael Mitnick has had his works developed around the country at theatres including Manhattan Theatre Club, Second Stage, Ars Nova, McCarter Theatre Center, TheatreWorks, and The Kennedy Center.  Current projects include “Animal House: The Musical,” being developed by Universal Pictures Stage Productions, featuring a score by the band Barenaked Ladies and a libretto by Michael Mitnick. The production will be directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, a Tony Award-winner for “The Book of Mormon.” He is also at work on a colossal production of “King Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World,” set to open in Melbourne next year, featuring music by Elbow‘s Guy Garvey, Massive Attack‘s Robert Del Naja, the Avalanches, and Sarah McLachlan. This big-budget production, directed by Daniel Kramer and featuring a one-ton animatronic gorilla, will include a soundtrack arranged by Marius de Vries, who has produced records for Rufus Wainwright and Elbow, and who directed the music for Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.

Ed, Downloaded, equal parts live action and feature film, was commissioned by the Denver Center Theatre Company and workshopped at the 2012 Colorado New Play Summit.

 

Phamaly’s Jeremy Palmer accepts volunteer award, Denver mayor’s proclamation

Phamaly Theatre Company actor and writer Jeremy Palmer accepts the Denver Foundation’s Minoru Yasui Volunteer Award, and Denver mayor Michael Hancock’s proclamation making Nov. 15, 2012, “Jeremy Palmer Day” in Denver. Video by John Moore of culturewest.org. Run time: 7 minutes.

It’s Jeremy Palmer Day in Denver – and all wife Lyndsay got was a bag of cookies. Photo by John Moore

John Hutton on Spielberg, Denver’s “Lincoln” connections, and being invited to the party

John Hutton talks about his role in “Lincoln.” Photo by John Moore.

By John Moore
Nov. 15, 2013

John Hutton has only five or six lines in the Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln,” opening nationwide Friday (Nov. 16). But, hey, the veteran Denver actor’s girlfriend reminded him, “You could have been in ‘The Three Stooges’ movie. That could have been the call you got.”

Instead, the call he got was to be in the film starring Daniel Day-Lewis that is an immediate frontrunner for the 2013 best-picture Oscar. Hutton plays Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, who may be insignificant in the film, “but he was really significant in life,” Hutton said.

Hutton is part of a considerable Denver connection in “Lincoln,” including former Denver Center Theatre Company stalwarts Jamie Horton, Dakin Matthews and big-time Broadway actor Byron Jennings. On the same day the film is to be released, Hutton will bow in a starring role in the Denver Center’s “When We Are Married,” a British comedy about three small-town couples who discover they’re not legally married after all.

For Hutton, the road from Denver to filming “Lincoln” in Richmond Va., goes all the way back to a phone call taken in 2001 by Anthony Powell, then the Denver Center Theatre Company‘s associate artistic director. Now he’s the artistic director of Stories on Stage.

“Somebody on Spielberg’s team realized they were going to need a lot of actors who could talk all high-falutin’,” said Powell. Meaning … classically trained stage actors. Powell recommended Denver Center company actors Hutton and Horton (now a professor at Dartmouth).

“He’s been one of the great benefactors of my life,” Hutton said of Powell, who says in return, “John has given me way too much credit.”

Hutton was asked to tape a Shakespeare monologue as his audition. “I did the St. Crispin’s Day speech from ‘Henry V’ because I love that speech, and because I’ll never be cast in that play, so here’s my shot to do it,” Hutton said with a laugh. “And who cares, anyway, because nobody is ever going to notice this.”

But someone did. A few weeks later, Hutton called Spielberg’s office to ask if his tape had been received. A nice woman replied that why, yes, Mr. Spielberg had taken a look at it. “And I went, ‘Woah, woah, woah — he actually looked at it himself? Doesn’t he have people to look at it?’ ”  Hutton said. “And she replied, ‘No, he looked at it himself.’ And right then I thought, ‘Well, if nothing else happens, that’s … pretty … cool!”

Though the film project officially entered “pre-production” status in 2001, nothing else did happen for many years. Except perhaps for the coincidence that Hutton played Lincoln himself in a Denver Center production of “John Brown’s Body” in 2004. Then, in the spring of 2011, a different casting team contacted Powell and other Denver Center contacts, asking all over again, “Do you know anybody who’s really good who looks like Lincoln?”

Powell – and everyone else they asked – said, “John Hutton.”

“But here’s the joke: John hates to be told he looks like Lincoln,” Powell said with a laugh. He got over it.

Hutton was sent script excerpts (called “sides” in the biz) of a scene between Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward, a role eventually played in the film by David Strathairn.

Local casting director Sylvia Gregory filmed Hutton and company mate Robert Sicular performing the audition scene, and sent it off. From that, Hutton was cast as Senator Charles Sumner, a leading slavery abolitionist from Massachusetts. Horton, by then long-moved to New Hampshire, was cast as Giles Stuart, a member of the House of Representatives. Dakin Matthews plays Secretary of the Interior John Usher. Byron Jennings has the largest role of the four, as U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair.

“As an actor, it was an honor to be involved with this picture, no matter how minor my role,” Horton said from Hanover, N.H. “And as a citizen of this country, I was equally proud to step into this nation’s past and revisit one of its proudest moments.” Horton will be back in town Dec. 15-16 to partake in Stories on Stage’s holiday-themed “Making Merry” program in Denver and Boulder.

“Lincoln,” which largely focuses on the 13th Amendment that forever outlawed slavery, is a who’s-who of Hollywood, including Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Hal Holbrook, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Kevin Kline, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson, Jackie Earle Haley, Walton Goggins, James Spader and Lukas Haas. The screenwriter is Tony Kushner, known for his many sprawling stage epics like “Angels in America,” and with whom Spielberg previously teamed on the film “Munich.”

Hutton’s big moment comes when he quotes a lovely little sonnet to Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln as they go into a celebratory party at the White House after the passing of the amendment. “So we’re rehearsing it, and I was giving it as much fullness as I could,” said Hutton. “And just before we’re going to shoot it, Mr. Spielberg comes by and, just in passing, he says quietly, ‘Oh, hey, Senator … the poetry? … Just move it along a little bit, OK?’ And I just said, ‘Yes, sir!’ ”

Hutton did a lot of sitting around that month, but he had the time of his life. “There are so many great people in this film,” he said. “You look around and there are all these guys sitting around in their period costumes. A lot of us who never even considered getting involved in something of this scale are just sitting around going, “Wow. … Isn’t it great to be invited to the party?”

And here’s where we pick up our conversation with Hutton about all things “Lincoln”:

John Moore: So at least you were cast on the right side of history. What do we need to know about Charles Sumner?
John Hutton: He was a leader of the Radical Republican movement in the United States Senate, and a rabid abolitionist. He was almost beaten to death in the Senate chamber (in 1856) by the nephew of a South Carolina senator who took offense to a speech he gave (arguing for the immediate admission of Kansas as a free state). He had to go to Europe to recover for a couple of years. He never really regained his health. But he and Mary Todd were socially very close. Sumner was something. He was a great orator.

Moore: Clearly he needs to have his own movie.
Hutton: He needs to have his own movie, dammit. And I’ve got the wig already. It’s gonna be great.

Moore: So at the time of filming in October 2011, you were starring here in Denver as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” And I remember some concern whether were going to have to miss the final week of performances to accommodate the film.
Hutton: There was some concern, but it all worked out perfectly. The Spielberg people were so organized. They told me back in July or August that I would start shooting on Nov. 1, and that’s when I started shooting. “Mockingbird” closed on Oct. 31; I flew out that night to Richmond; and we started the next day.

Moore: So what was all that concern about?
Hutton: There was some talk I might have to fly out a week early. My understudy was John Arp, and he was at the ready. I told the (film team), “Boy, I would really love to finish this run,” but I was thinking, “I have five lines in this entire movie. They don’t care about my conflicts.” But they did actually care. And they made it work.

 

That’s John Hutton second from the far right with Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones. Photo by Dreamworks.

 

Moore: How long were you under contract?
Hutton: For five weeks, and I was there for four. (Note: The entire film was shot in just two months).

Moore: What was it like filming with your good friends from Denver?
Hutton: Jamie, Byron and I were all there at the same time, so we just had a great time because you never worked on the weekends, and you never worked past 8. So we would meet at the bar and have oysters and beer. Jamie had a very interesting time because he was directing a play up at Dartmouth at the same time, so the schedule would change and he thought for a time they might fire him. But it all worked out. Byron had a really good time, too, I think.

Moore: Were you here in Denver at the same time Byron was?
Hutton: I was here for two shows with him in the mid-1980s. The (Denver Center)  company had a very difficult time in those days. What a great company it was … but they just couldn’t get a toehold (in the community) with the way things were then.

Moore: So what was it like being surrounded by all those stars for a month?
Hutton: You walk by a restaurant and there is Tommy Lee Jones having dinner, and you are thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?” But that was the thing: Everybody was happy to be there.

I was having lunch with John Hawkes one day, and I had just seen his movie, “The Winter’s Bone,” and all I could say was, “Man that was genius.” And he was such a nice guy about it.

I knew Hal Holbrook from doing “King Lear” together in New York way back in 1989, I think. So I’m sitting in the makeup chair one day, and I know he’s somewhere on the set, and I can’t wait to see him. But I haven’t seen him in 10 years, and I don’t know if he’ll remember me. So he comes in and he sits down on the chair next to me. He turns to me and he says, “Good morning, John.” Just like that. Isn’t that great? Such a classy guy. He missed a couple of days of filming because, guess what? He’s doing “Mark Twain Tonight” somewhere in Pocatello, Idaho. He said to me, “Johnny, I gotta keep working. I gotta keep working.” When I saw Hal perform last time at the Buell Theatre, I sat there and thought, “There are 2,800 seats, every one of them is filled for two shows — and there is just one guy on the stage. And all he’s got are a carpet and a cigar. I have been looking at that guy on TV since I was 5 years old. And he’s been doing it since he was 25. (Note: Holbrook is now 87).

Moore: Every time you turned around, you were probably bumping into somebody who has won an Oscar.
Hutton: All the time. One day, Tommy Lee Jones comes back to the set from a break, kind of grumpy, and he says, “I gotta tell somebody this …” There are four or five of us who happened to be there at the time, and we are like, “Anything you want to say to us, Mr. Jones … we will listen to.”  And so he says to us, “It’s raining. … It’s raining on my ranch in Texas.” That just made his day, because the drought has been very serious there. That was great. I mean, you want to engage these people, and yet you don’t really know how. Because what you really want to say to Tommy Lee Jones is, “Your performances have changed my life.” But you can’t say that because everybody’s an actor, and everybody’s being all professional, and so instead you just sort of go, “Good morning, Mr. Jones.” And that’s it.

Moore: Where did you do most of your shooting?
Hutton: Much of the film centers around the debate over the 13th amendment.  The senate has passed it. So much of it takes place in the House of Representatives. The (present day) statehouse in Richmond stood in for the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. So most of the time, we’re up in the viewing gallery — me and other supporters of the amendment. That includes Sally Field (as Mary). Jamie Horton is downstairs on the floor below, where they are fighting it out. We just sat there looking out over this huge room. There are 200 guys down there, and they all looked like they just stepped out of 1865. It was truly amazing to look at. I thought, “Man, this is going to look great on film.”

Moore: Was this your first time doing Kushner?
Hutton: Yeah. They never did let us read the whole script. But when I got the sides for the audition, I’m like … “Wow, look at all these parenthetical phrases.” You start off with one thought, and you reinforce that thought later on in the speech, and then you re-cap it at the end, and when it’s over … it’s all of three sentences.

Moore: I’m guessing that’s why Spielberg wanted stage actors.
Hutton: Yeah.

Moore: My concern when I heard Kushner wrote it is that it might turn out to be a 14-hour movie.
Hutton: It may have been at one point.

Moore: So how big is Jamie’s role?
Hutton: I know they are trying to persuade people to vote in a certain way, and there are various ways they do that throughout he film. There’s a scuffle. He’s involved in that.

Moore: Hmmm, so a little voter coercion?
Hutton: Yes, there is a little voter coercion.

Moore: And you have not yet seen the finished product?
Hutton: No.

Moore: When are you going watch it?
Hutton: We’re going to try on Sunday night or Monday night, because those are the only nights I have off (from the Denver Center).

Moore: So Spielberg secured the rights to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s source book, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” in 1999 — six years before she even published it. Why do you think it took so long to get it done?
Hutton: I think it may be one of those things where script, actor and director were finally all in the same place at the same time. (Note: Liam Neeson was originally slated to play Lincoln.) Steven Spielberg has obviously been thinking about doing it for a long time. I think about (the Denver Center Theatre Company’s 2008) “Plainsong” in that way, where these really disparate elements come together fortuitously. It’s a moment in time. It doesn’t happen before. It doesn’t happen after. It happens then. And maybe that’s what this is. But I also think he’s interested in political mechanics too, and, of course, what are we dealing with all the time now in Washington?

Moore: I was surprised the movie didn’t come come out a few months earlier for what it might have to say about the election. Because one of the questions that keeps coming up on conservative radio in the aftermath of the election is how something like 94 percent of blacks voted for Barack Obama, and how did the Republican Party — the party that freed the slaves — ever lose the black vote? I thought this movie might serve as a reminder of what the Republican party stood for at one time in history.
Hutton: And they lost them almost completely. Several million people can’t be wrong. Maureen Dowd said it: Romney is president — of all the white people.

Moore: Romney did win 72 percent of the white vote. And it wasn’t enough.
Hutton: I think that’s a good thing for (the Republicans) to think about.

Moore: But everybody’s nerves are so frayed from the divisiveness of the election right now, I thought it might be interesting for moviegoers to more calmly reflect back on America at that particular point in history, and who it was that was getting (bleep) done.
Hutton: Getting (bleep) done, exactly. And he was surrounded by enemies. He had these people around like Seward who were his competition. These were really bright,  aggressive guys, and yet, Lincoln was able to get it done anyway. I played him in “John Brown’s Body” (at the Denver Center in 2004), and I think I really understand why Daniel Day-Lewis works so well in the role. He was the guy that everyone loves. And if he walked into the room right now, you would feel something like, ‘Wow, there is hope. Somebody is here who knows how to do it. He’s intelligent; he’s contemplative; he’s a serious fellow; he has moral standing. He’s that man. He’s part-myth … but he’s close enough in history to us that we know a lot about him, too.’

Moore: That’s interesting because I think everything you just said about Lincoln also applies exactly to Obama in two ways: One is that what you said is only true for the 50 percent who loved Lincoln. And, to be blunt, both of them knew, or know, that there is a possibility they might not survive their presidencies because of those who hate them.
Hutton: Oh, yes … he was reviled.

Moore: So when you consider all the anti-Obama violence we’ve seen just this month, like two churches burning him in effigy in Florida, and protests at Ole Miss —
Hutton: We’re not out of the woods.

Moore: These two men seem to be alike in that they are rock stars to some — and hated by just as many.
Hutton: Yes, both terrifying to some people, and adored by others. Lincoln was trying to wrap this war up, but then he also had all of these other terrible problems at home. His young son dying, and trying to keep his other son out of the war. Not to mention that it looked for a long time like they might lose the war.

Moore: It will be interesting to see if audiences draw a connection between the two, which would be ironic because the film has been in the works since long before most Americans had ever heard of Barack Obama. But I think it’s going to be impossible not see some similarities.
Hutton: And that’s why Steven Spielberg refused to release the film until after the election — he did not want to have any influence on it. He didn’t want it to be part of the pros and cons at all.

Moore: So how do you sum up the totality of your experience?
Hutton: You got a sense pretty early on that this was going to be something special. We all felt that. And that same thing happens here (in Denver) on a smaller scale. When everybody is happy to be there, really good stuff starts to happen. That is not something you can just create. You can only hope that the room is good. That’s what that film was like.

Moore: So are you going to make it your policy now to only perform in Oscar-worthy films?
Hutton: Oh yeah. Only the big stuff. But seriously, when you see it … it’s blink … and I am gone.

I am guessing Jamie Horton is somewhere in that mass of House of Representatives humanity. Photo by Dreamworks.

 

John Hutton’s audition monologue
The St. Crispin’s Day speech
from “Henry V,” by William Shakespeare

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Evan Weissman to launch Denver’s first “Civic Health Club”

Evan Weissman is out to change the world, one stomach at a time. Photo by John Moore.

 

By John Moore
Nov. 12, 2012

Evan Weissman

If asked about your physical health, emotional health, spiritual health or psychological health, you’d most likely have an answer at the ready, says Denver actor Evan Weissman. Perhaps you’ve recently discovered yoga; you’ve found God, a guru or a therapist.

But what if you were asked about your civic health? “That’s harder for most folks to gauge,” Weissman said. There is no bricks-and-mortar place in Denver for people to regularly exercise their civic muscles.

Weissman is out to change that by opening Denver’s first Civic health club.

“Warm Cookies of the Revolution,” he says, will be a place for daily human connection offering fun and engaging programming for both personal betterment and social change.

The irony of this being the internet era is that it discourages actual human interaction. By actually gathering people in a room, “this will be an antidote to the loneliness that comes with Facebook and other online interactions,” said Weissman — who recently, and against his better judgment, actually joined up on Facebook himself.

Warm Cookies of the Revolution’s first game night, Nov. 12 at Buntport Theater. Photo by John Moore.

Weissman gave his idea a test-drive on Monday by hosting a Warm Cookies Game Night that drew about 100 curiosity-seekers to Buntport Theater for rounds of Scrabble, Monopoly, Balderdash and hipper variations on party games like Apples to Apples. Players were treated to cold milk, warm cookies and a slew of board games. The idea was for strangers to interact, laugh, and in the process just maybe … talk  about our world.  At our table we discussed, at our game’s insistence,  the world’s next possible superhero duo. (I think the winner was decided to be either Jesus and Stalin — or Justin Bieber and Dick Cheney.)

About a year from now, Weissman will officially open his civic health club near the Esquire Theatre. Every night will be different, with salons as varied as, say, equally represented political debate; discussions on current events that might be impacting local neighborhoods; socially conscious comedy showcases; and maybe even …  an introduction to knitting. The idea is to combine the fun of community pop-culture engagement with issues of vital civic importance.

Whenever  you come in, you will be greeted with ice cream, warm cookies and hot soup, Weissman promises. Admission will be by donation only.

Weissman has entertained audiences for nearly 12 years as a member of the super-smart and often ridiculously silly Buntport Theater, which has produced more than 30 original, form-bending theatrical explorations like the current “Sweet Tooth,” an original musical about a happy recluse who goes to great lengths to experience the world from the comfort of her own home. Recently, Buntport staged a play that starred a life-sized puppet version of actor Tommy Lee Jones talking about his love for opera.

But anyone who knows Weissman also knows he is a highly informed citizen of the world who is not so much interested in advocating for specific political positions but rather in building conversations that bring to light, say, obvious inadequacies in our two-party political system, or taking more humanistic approaches to the Israel-Palestine conflict. He doesn’t care what you believe — well, he does — but he’s more concerned that you believe something. Warm Cookies of the Revolution seeks to better inform the citizenry, to allow differing points of view to be heard, and to cultivate community discussion and understanding about passionate topics. He plans to stay with Buntport, but in a reduced performing role moving forward.

Pick your poison, er, dice. Photo by John Moore.

“The idea is to combine features from Jane Addams’ Hull House and European salon discussions with contemporary issues, and yummy versions of your local mall’s food court,” Weissman said. But to start, his goal is admittedly small: “This is the first in what will hopefully be a Civic health-club movement across the globe, ” he said.

Wait, that is big.

In preparation for next year’s official opening, Weissman will host a monthly gathering at Buntport Theater (717 Lipan St.) that will offer participants a taste of what every night at Warm Cookies might be like. Next month’s theme will be a letter-writing party. On Dec. 10, attendees will write missives – whether a personal message to an estranged family member, a lover, a newspaper editor, a congressperson, a prisoner, no matter – Weissman just wants to revive the art of putting pen to paper. “We will also have representatives from different organizations telling you about some different campaigns and issues that are going on,” he said. “And you can be on whatever side you like.”

Weissman talked about that and more in his remarks to Monday’s game players. Here are excerpts, followed by contact information:

One of the main ideas is that the internet makes a lot of people lonely, and people seem to crave community and real-life interactions. There are music venues and comedy clubs and kickball leagues and all sorts of things that people do. The idea behind Warm Cookies of the Revolution is to try to keep these fun things that engage people, and lean into the civic a little bit more. Just to have a place for folks who are interested in deciding what we want as a community, and figuring out how to get there.

If you got an invitation that said, “Come to a discussion about the city budget,” or, “Come to a discussion about welcoming people into the neighborhood who have committed sex offenses and are getting out of prison,” … These are things that are very important, because they are happening — whether you like them or not. But most people aren’t going to those discussions. If you have kids, and you have to get a babysitter, and you only go out one night a week, that’s probably not the thing most people are going to go to. And the people who are going are usually already invested, and would show up anyway.

So if we can do things at the civic health club, like a game night, or a knitting circle, or a craft night, or cooking together, a whole host of things, you would come knowing you are also going to be talking about something civic … something about the community. But basically, you are going to have fun. We are going to get people who otherwise wouldn’t be a part of these conversations to take part.

We have a space that is going to open almost exactly a year from now. There will be a storefront. It will be pay-what-you-can, a donation-only system. There will be cookies, ice cream and soup. It will be a large space for community meetings, debates, fun things. There will be a community kitchen, so we will be cooking things for some of these activities. You are not going to come every single night. But, every once in a while, you can kind of plug-in, and see what different organizations around town are doing about a host of issues. We are also going to do things in different communities to get more people involved.

 

For more information:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/warmcookiesoftherevolution

 

At this Revolution, dogs are people, I mean, players, too. Photo by John Moore.

 

A message on Veteran’s Day: Air Force Sgt., and actor, James Sherman

Air Force Sgt. James Sherman

By John Moore

Nov. 12, 2012

United States Air Force Sgt. James Sherman.

On this Veteran’s Day, please consider  this monologue, “My Junk,” written by Air Force Sgt. James Sherman. He performed it as part of the local Phamaly Theatre Company’s fifth annual “Vox Phamilia,” a collection of original scenes and comic sketches offering an at-times times brutally honest perspective on living with a disability. Sherman’s piece carried additional poignancy for me, having seen it yesterday on Veteran’s Day  (which is officially being observed today).

I heard it, loved it, and wanted (with James’ permission) to share it.
_______________________
“My Junk”

By Air Force Sgt. James Sherman

          I’m going to tell you all about my junk. Yes … my junk. The who, the where, and most importantly … the what. You see, at the beginning of my adult life, I served in the United States Air Force. (So) my first piece of junk is my beret. During my 10-year stretch, I traveled all over the world from Japan to Iraq. I even earned two commendations — one from the Army, and one from the Air Force. My decorations are real, baby, no “America’s Got Talent” fakes here. I was a criminal investigator. My job was to support the Air Force mission to fly, fight, and win.

My next piece of junk is something that stemmed from my years of law enforcement … my handcuffs. They got a lot of work over the years. Stainless steel, well-oiled devices of human pacification. I didn’t use these by themselves, or else we’d be talking about a different piece of junk. They became as much a part of me as my other piece of junk.

This (next) piece of junk has been a part of my life since the beginning … before I learned to fly, fight, and win.   Before I earned my medals, “I had an enemy lying in wait” — one that couldn’t be interrogated, couldn’t be fired on or reasoned with.  “Charcot-Marie-Tooth” is my enemy. An enemy that destroys muscles, that cripples both men and women. It eats dreams, turns hope into fear, turns pride into solitude. From this enemy there’s no mercy, no relief… and no cure.

How do you tell a man whose built his life on standing for those in need, against those who do harm, is not the man he used to be?  Tell him career is over because he can’t run very fast, that he’s a liability in the field, and can’t lead his men anymore. That his newest piece of junk — his leg braces — are  going to sound like he’s hiding balloons in his pants, and is going to lead to all sorts of new sexual experiences with airport security.

How do you tell someone that? My newest piece of junk came with shame, doubt and fear those were the things I was to run with now instead of my formation… Rather, I wasn’t running much at all anymore.

I tell you what… quitting would have been easy. It would have been, if I didn’t have all this other “junk”: Friends, family, successes and failures … They all ride with me, and I can’t just leave bits and pieces behind because I got some new junk. No … not this time. No one’s going to tell me I need to quit, no one’s going to tell me, “Sergeant you just can’t.”  This time, if you want me, you’re going to have to come get me. After all, I have a responsibility to my friends, family and country that I have to complete.

So I encourage you, the next time your heart hurts or someone tells you, “impossible” … Just pull your junk out and put it on the table for you — and the world to see.         

_______________________
Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is a genetically and clinically heterogeneous group of inherited disorders of the peripheral nervous system characterised by progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation across various parts of the body. Currently incurable, this disease is one of the most common inherited neurological disorders affecting approximately 1 in 2,500 people, equating to approximately 23,000 people in the United Kingdom and 125,000 people in the U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: McNichols Building re-opens as culture center in Denver’s Civic Center Park

Design by Vogelvau. Photo by John Moore

 

Click here to see my full slideshow of photos from Friday’s grand opening.  

By John Moore

Nov. 11, 2012

Design by Highraff. Photo by John Moore

The anchor of Denver Mayor Robert Speer’s turn-of-the-century civic beautification project was Civic Center Park. The Carnegie Library, completed in 1909, was the first completed building. The Greek Revival-style library was designed by Albert Ross of New York and funded through a $200,000 gift from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Its architectural style was in keeping with the neoclassical aesthetic of Speer’s City Beautiful movement “and its principles for order and harmony,” according to historic documents. It is still connected to the City and County Building by an underground tunnel that was intended as a quick getaway for prominent city officials in the event of an emergency.

In 1956, the new Denver Public Library opened at its present location at 14th Avenue and Broadway. The Denver Water Board moved into the Carnegie Library and used it for offices in 1957, making numerous changes to the building’s interior. The Carnegie was renamed the McNichols Civic Center Building  and used as office space by other entities such as the city’s treasury department until 2009.

It remained empty until the 2010 Biennial of the Americas reimagined the building as a home for culture, art, color and ideas. Last year, the city agency known as Arts & Venues Denver invested $1.8 million to renovate the building as a three-floor arts center, designed by architects from Humphries Poli. The building, dedicated as a National Historic Landmark last month, will be used for gallery shows, speaking engagements, concerts and other performing arts. Each floor will be curated with art exhibits and installations the public can view for free from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

Click here to see my full slideshow of photos from Friday’s grand opening.  

 

Current installations and exhibits (click links for more information):

 

Click here to see my full slideshow of photos from Friday’s grand opening.  

Click here to read The Denver Post’s feature story about the renovation and more about the city’s plans for future use of the McNichols Building.

 

Photo by John Moore

 

60-second review: “How the World Began”

Ryan Wuestawald and Emily Paton Davies in “How the World Began.”

 

By John Moore

Nov. 10, 2012

I so wish I could tell you the classroom drama “How the World Began” is nothing more than an obvious piece of playwriting propaganda — an infuriating pop-culture provocation that unfairly mocks that part of poor, stupid small-town America that still clings to its entrenched belief in “intelligent design” over the science of evolution.

But then there’s that whole … election thing we all just emerged from, bloodied, bruised and bitterly divided. This was the election when Americans took up keyboards (in lieu of arms) to fight our brothers, co-workers and virtual Facebook friends like foot soldiers for truth. But no, not truth — over whether a personal belief trumps an irrefutable fact if you just believe in it hard enough.

Are we seriously still arguing the indisputable fact of evolution, 90 years after the Scopes Monkey Trial?

Why, yes, depressingly … we are. And, for that matter, whether President Obama is a great American — or a Muslim/fascist/Communist/socialist/anti-colonialist.

Catherine Trieschmann’s polarizing, often proudly angry play is set in Plainview (get the irony?), Kansas, in the aftermath of a deadly tornado. She presents three iconic, flawed characters: A tough New York biochemsistry teacher named Susan — made single and 5 months pregnant for added sympathy — has come here to help the town rebuild. Her fatal flaw is her hard-to-believe naivete — she’s a highly educated New Yorker who seems completely unaware and unprepared for the conservative and at-times violent social attitudes that prevail here. Micah is a damaged, orphaned high-school student who takes offense to his new teacher’s flippant (but factual) remark about the origins of life. Micah’s unofficial caretaker is Gene, a presumably cliched old hayseed who proves to be, refreshingly, the most moderate of the three.

Poor Micah, who has lost both parents and an abusive stepfather, is a sweet, cuddly little … monster. Because every time the adults in the story manage to negotiate a truce that will quell the escalating — and predictably more venal — town furor, it is the troubled youth’s intractable adherence to his confused personal principles that ratchet things back up again. Until there are real consequences.

Theater is inherently manipulative. The best theater provokes you without you even knowing you’ve been played. Here … you know it. My buttons were being pushed before the end of the first scene.  This play feels like so many Facebook exchanges I’ve had with opposite-thinking strangers and lifelong friends over 2012 campaign issues, it’s a wonder my blood pressure made it through the play unexploded.

All of which is a testament to this being an uncannily effective staging by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company — actors Emily Paton Davies, Ryan Wuestewald and Chris Kendall, directed by Steven Weitz.

I saw a lot of local political theater in the month leading up to the election, but going in, I wouldn’t have even presumed “How the World Began” to be among it. But this is political theater made wrenchingly human. Nothing else I saw engaged me as thoroughly and politically as this play did. Arguments (OK, most started by me) spilled out into the parking lot afterward. I haven’t talked as much about a play I’ve seen in I don’t know how long — and that means this company is doing something very right.

This staging, telling this story now, in the week after the election,  is why live theater still matters.

 

Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “How the World Began”

Through Nov. 18
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; plus 4 p.m. Sundays
Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or betc’s home page

Miners Alley Playhouse making way for new artistic leadership

 

 

Rick Bernstein, Lisa DeCaro, Len Matheo, Brenda Billings and Paige Larson will be working together to run Golden’s Miners Alley Playhouse in 2013. Photo by John Moore.

By John Moore

Nov. 8, 2012

Rick Bernstein has announced the “slow and steady” transition of the leadership of his Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden to a well-known local team headed by Evergreen Players board president Brenda Billings and director Len Matheo.

Matheo and Billings will take over as co-executive artistic directors on Jan. 1. Bernstein and his wife, current artistic director Paige Larson, will remain as producers and consultants through the end of 2013. That overlapping time together will not only make for an orderly transition, Matheo said, it will give the theater time to adequately recognize Bernstein and Larson for what will have been 24 years of telling intimate stories for theatergoers in west Jefferson County.

“Rick and Paige are the patriarch and matriarch of this family, and they always will be,” Matheo said.

Bernstein is stepping down now because, he said, “I think it’s time for the theater to grow.

“I wanted small. I wanted control. I wanted my own personal autonomy … and that creates limitation. But I also know that with what’s going on with the economy and in the community right now, the best thing for this organization is to open up the doors and give it the opportunity to grow to the next level.”

Larson emphasized that the theater is in good financial condition, that it will be business as usual during the transition, and that the founding couple would not be stepping aside now if they were not certain they have recruited the best possible replacements.

“They’re just like us,” Bernstein said of Billings and Matheo. “They have great attitudes. They have great heart. I think they do theater for the right reasons, and I think they are going to continue our work with great panache.”

Bernstein founded the little Morrison Theatre in 1989. He moved into the 120-seat gem of a theater he built above the old Foss Drug Store in the heart of downtown Golden in 2003. Miners Alley Playhouse — named after the actual alley that runs behind the theater at 1224 Washington St. — opened in June 2003 with “The Elephant Man.”

Miners Alley is known for staging a variety of intimate fare, including farces, American classics and dry English comedies, with a particular niche for telling powerful Jewish tales. Matheo said nothing will significantly change, other than to expect two musicals among the theater’s seven annual offerings. “That’s something audiences have been asking for,” Bernstein said.

Brenda Billings is a member of the large and well-known theater family headed by the late P.K. Worley, who served the Evergreen Players for 25 years in many capacities before his death in 2011. Billings recently directed “Hair” in Evergreen with a cast that included her daughter, Jacqui Jo. Her other daughter, Jamie, performed in the national touring production of “Spring Awakening” that visited Denver last year. Brenda Billings’ term heading the 62-year-old Evergreen Players’ board of directors expires in December, when she will be replaced by Kathleen Davis.

Brenda Billings is dedicating this next chapter of her theatrical life to her dad. “He would be so excited about this,” she said. “And if he were alive, he would be calling me every day, asking, ‘OK, what’s next?’ ”

But this is actually the story of three married couples: Matheo’s wife, actor Lisa DeCaro, will be joining the MAP board, along with Billings’ husband, Jim, who will also serve as Miners Alley’s treasurer. He is the president of Skyline Property Management Inc., and vice president of Billings Investments, both of Golden. He and Brenda both previously served on the board for the Colorado Children’s Chorale.

For 15 years, Matheo and DeCaro have operated their own business called Courtroom Performance, which prepares attorneys and their real-life witnesses for depositions and trials. They have acted and directed with many local theater companies, including the Evergreen Players, Firehouse, Edge and Vintage. DeCaro has appeared this year in both “Parallel Lives” and “Hair” for the Evergreen Players, and in “Six Degrees of Separation” for Vintage.

Looking ahead to 2013

The 2013 season — Miners Alley’s 10th in Golden — was previously announced by Bernstein and Larson, and it now becomes, essentially, their farewell tour:

  • Nov. 9-Dec. 23, 2012: “Greetings!” (see video above)
  • Jan. 11-Feb 17, 2013: “Mrs. Mannerly”
  • March 1-April 7, 2013: “The Pitmen Painters”
  • April 19-May 26, 2013: “The Memory of Water”
  • June 7-July 14, 2013: “Collected Stories”
  • July 26-Sept 1, 2013: “Not Now Darling”
  • Sept. 14-Oct. 27, 2013: “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”
  • Nov. 8-Dec. 22, 2013: “It’s a Wonderful Life, the Radio Play”

Bernstein is appearing in “Greetings,” opening Friday, Nov. 9. Larson and DeCaro will perform together in April’s “The Memory of Water.” After four new offerings, the slate culminates with reprisals of three Bernstein favorites from his first 10 years in Golden. That includes the pioneering mental-health drama “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” by local writer Joanne Greenberg, again directed by Bernstein.

Billings and Matheo will announce their first season — for 2014 — by late summer. Until then, Matheo said his first few months will be about learning. “The first few months, we will be shadowing (Bernstein and Larson), seeing how things are done, getting introduced to all the people behind the scenes, and cultivating the board of directors.”

Billings (“Hairspray”) and Matheo (“All My Sons”) will continue their long associations with the Evergreen Players with directing gigs in 2013. They also hope the two companies can share resources and perhaps enter into future producing partnerships. “John and Kathleen Davis have done the lion’s share of the work for the Evergreen Players for 30 years, and that is not going to change,” DeCaro said. “They are taking positive steps to take things to the next level as well.”

Where it all began

Miners Alley Playhouse was built when Bernstein secured a $150,000 loan from the Golden Civic Foundation, with a $50,000 matching grant. Mesa Meadows Land Co. kicked in another $250,000 toward the elevators, bathrooms, lobby and bar. The theater was designed by Donelson Architecture in Golden and built by Michael Pines as a thrust stage, with seating on three sides.

Bernstein says his biggest heartbreak would have been for the theater to close. That nearly happened in 2007, when the 94-year-old Foss Drug that not only anchors the playhouse above but all of downtown Golden, went out of business. That space is now a  thriving retail center that houses a restaurant, liquor store, outdoor clothing store and bicycle shop.

In 2010, Miners Alley became the first small company to win the Colorado Theatre Guild’s  Henry Award for best season. That included Larson starring in “A Picasso,” about an imagined 1941 meeting between the famous artist and a Gestapo agent.

Bernstein started the Morrison Theatre with $5,000 in 1989. Miners Alley currently operates on a $350,000 annual budget and attracts up to 12,000 theatergoers a year — more than double the total in 2004. Bernstein never paid himself until 1992 – when he started earning $69 a month.

“I think we created a legacy,” Bernstein said. “We created a venue and we created artistic programming that the community tells us is very valuable to the people of Golden.”

This new transaction does not involve a cash payment beyond guaranteeing Bernstein and Larson’s 2013 contracts — because the business is essentially a nonprofit that operates under a lease held by Pat Foss and the Mesa Meadows Land Co. That lease is up in 2013 , but all parties anticipate a smooth negotiation.

An era will end

Looking back, Larson said, “I think we have created exactly what we hoped for, through a really tough journey. We set out to create an atmosphere where actors and directors and technicians are valued as family. And that’s what happened.”

Matheo said the goal moving forward is artistic consistency. “We just want to continue their legacy of doing great theater,” he said.

“And the great thing about next year is that we are going to be doing this together, all six of us,” DeCaro added. “We love these guys, and we are going to to continue to build on this great brand that Rick and Paige have built.”

If any longtime Miners Alley theatergoers are saddened by the news, Bernstein said, don’t be. “Keep coming,” he said. “Support the theater. I really believe we have the right people in place to tell the stories our audience wants to hear, to add new stories and to incorporate musical theater. So enjoy the change. Enjoy the fun.”

For more information: 303-935-3044 or www.minersalley.com

Paige Larson and Rick Bernstein. Photo by John Moore.

 

Lisa DeCaro, Len Matheo and Brenda Billings. Photo by John Moore.

 

 

 

What companies can learn from the reinvention of Denver’s Curious Theatre

Tara Falk stars in Curious Theatre’s current offering, “Time Stands Still,” Donald Margulies’ drama about an injured photojournalist just home from Iraq. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

By John Moore

Nov. 4, 2012

A tremor from a divisive national debate that has been growing among theater professionals nationwide for years finally rumbled its way to the picturesque Rocky Mountains — and Curious Theatre director Christy Montour-Larson felt it.

You won’t find anyone more loyal to Denver’s primary mid-sized professional theater company than Montour-Larson, a genial midwesterner straight out of “Fargo.” But when confronted with the hard question, she could feel the ground shift.

It came in the form of a question that was being flatly laid out at a company retreat in Steamboat Springs.

“Are are we doing the best work we can do?”

And Montour-Larson wanted no part of it.

“I thought, ‘I am not going to go there,’ ” she said. Because even though Curious is one of Denver’s most accomplished companies, “I did not think we were doing the best work possible,” she admitted, “and I thought that might be a scary, and a hard, and maybe even a dangerous thing to say out loud.”

But something about the dynamic in the room emboldened Montour-Larson to come out and say exactly what she was thinking: “No.”

And, as it turns out, “the group was sort of glad that it was out there on the table,” she said.

And so, the artists and staff who make up the spine of the Curious Theatre Company on and off stage got down to the business of reinventing the organization in fundamental ways that speak volumes about that aforementioned national Great Debate.

After two years of planning and prototyping, Curious recently unveiled a new organizational model that founder Chip Walton believes is a replicable blueprint for similarly sized professional theaters around the country. One that merges the needs of the individual artist with those of the organization in a mutually supportive union.

It will work, Walton said, because “this is a model that I think really obliterates territorialism.”

 “When did being pro-artist make one anti-institution?”

At first blanche, the question reads as pure semantics, like so many chickens and eggs. But there is a prevailing sense that a wedge is being driven between individual artists and the institutions that house them throughout America. And how institutions proactively respond to that perception could shape the way the business of theater is conducted for years to come.

The artist vs. institution rift has been simmering, well, for as long as there have been artists and institutions. But the divide erupted from watering-hole banter into a heated national dialogue in June when Michael Maso, managing director of the Huntington Theatre in Boston, accepted an award for his contributions to the American theater at the Theatre Communications Group’s industry conference in Boston.

At the conclusion of his speech, the head of Boston’s leading professional theater left no doubt that he believes arts institutions, like Mitt Romney’s corporations, are people, too.

“I run a large institutional theater. Yes, we built new spaces with multiple performance halls in order to produce new plays and create programs for local playwrights and provide first-class facilities to other local theaters. Yes, we sell tickets to get an audience. Yes, we raise money because tickets alone don’t pay the bills. Yes, all of that takes people. Does that make us overstuffed bureaucracies? Bullshit!”

Artsjournal.com blogger Diane Ragsdale responded to Maso with a pointed salvo that included:

“With rare exception, artists (in this instance meaning writers, actors, directors, and often designers) are not generally part of the institution (meaning resident theaters). Administrators, marketers, and development staff have a home. Production and technical staff have a home. Literary managers and dramaturges have a home. But artists are not part of the institution. They are jobbed in as needed, and then sent home to live their precarious lives, unattached (in every sense of the word) to theater institutions.”

But a wedge? “how does one drive a wedge between two things that are not attached?” Ragsdale said.

To some, this whole topic might read as so much “inside baseball,” the very notion that institutions are somehow obstacles to the art — or the artists — that they present.

But to Curious’ Walton, “I can tell you this is an argument that is hot and it is heated, and it is deeply personal.” And it calls into unavoidable question the age-old cultural priorities of a country that endows institutions to a much fuller degree than it does individual artists.

So … have they had that backward all this time?

“There is a large faction of individual artists working in the field who have a pretty high degree of antipathy toward institutions,” said Walton, “and toward how resources within the field are skewed so tremendously toward organizations and institutions, and not  toward individuals.”

Actor John Carroll Lynch, a Denver native and a veteran of stage, film and TV, says the chasm is as obvious as the difference in paychecks between artists and the executives running their institutions.

“The institutions you are talking about, like the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, were started by people who run corporations,” said Lynch, “and so they were set up from the beginning to run as corporations. Just look at what the people at the very top of those organizations make in salary each year.”

A public records check shows that Denver Center president Randy Weeks made  $273,000 in 2010, Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director Kent Thompson made $250,000, and two vice presidents made about $150,000 each. For starters. That pales in comparison to longtime Guthrie Theater director Joe Dowling, who cleared nearly $700,000 running the Minneapolis institution back in 2007 — making him the highest-paid theater artist in the United States.

And what does an actor make in comparison? An actor might be lucky to get 16 weeks of work at a professional regional theater company each year. That would gross him or her around $24,000, depending on the company and contract.

“And that,” Lynch said flatly, “qualifies him for food stamps.”

Like corporations, Lynch said, artistic institutions are very much made up of people. And, just like corporations, “there is a 1 percent. And artists aren’t part of it.”

So the deck is stacked, naturally, in favor of institutions that consistently fail to incorporate artists into their planning, from architectural design to day-to-day operation.

“When the Goodman Theatre building was designed (in Chicago), they didn’t ask actors for their input,” Lynch said. “And because of that, there are no sinks in the dressing rooms.”

Lynch starred in “A View From the Bridge” in 2008 at the Guthrie, known as a kind of cineplex for live theater in Minneapolis. Lynch was surprised to discover there are not only no green rooms for actors in the entire facility, “there is no place for an actor to warm up that is not in full view of the audience.” That’s because most walls there are made of glass.

And that is just the way it is, Lynch said. “Because art is ephemeral. Art ends. Institutions don’t. So when it comes down to the survival of institutions vs. the creation of art, it’s going to be the institution that wins out, every time.”

The exception, and the solution, Lynch said, is for companies that start out small, such as the highly honored Buntport Theater in Denver, to maintain their original artist-driven value systems as they inevitably grow into bricks-and-mortar institutions.

Buntport is made up of a group of six Colorado College classmates who have presented ensemble-created original works for 12 years while maintaining a proud independence from the prevailing institutional model.

“At Buntport, the mentality is completely different from most theaters,” Lynch said. “They are an artist-driven company. They committed themselves to working as a cooperative group, not as individuals. And they pay themselves. Their primary focus is to ensure that none of them have to also wait tables.”


The reinvention of Curious Theatre Company

Curious Theatre is a 15-year-old company that presents five “new to Denver” plays each year with an annual budget that has steadily grown to $1.23 million and a full-time staff of seven.

In 2010, Curious was a recipient of a MetLife/TCG “Aha! Think It! Do It!” grant. The company was given $75,000 “to explore innovative opportunities for reinventing the resident artistic company model for the 21st century American theater by re-centering artists within producing organizations.” The grant was for $25,000 to “think it” — and an another $50,000 to “do it.”

So this theater company was going to be paid $25,000 to think? Seriously? Shouldn’t  all theater companies be doing that for free?

Walton gets the joke. But he knew the work his people were about to undertake could not only fundamentally change the course of his company, it could provide solutions to the age-old artists vs. institutions conundrum by coming up with a way to fully integrate artists into the very core of how the organization operates.

“The debate caused me to be think, ‘We are asking these questions about the relationship between artists and institutions every year, and apparently everybody in the field is now asking the same question,’ ” Walton said. “So I thought, instead of spending several weeks every summer around a retreat debating this question, let’s spend a dedicated, concerted length of time and really try to answer it: How should artists be in relationship to the organization?”

It’s important to understand just where Curious was at in its development at the time it took on the task of reinvention. Curious was founded in 1998 like so many others — by a small group of eager artists who wanted to put on plays. To do so, the founding members would be expected to do everything from working the box office to painting the stage to acting in the shows.

But Curious officially began as a company of designers, gradually taking actors into a fold that by 2007 grew to 19. By then, a fully professional staff and a forward-thinking, fundraising-focused board of directors were long in place, and the actors were no longer expected to do those extra things beyond blowing people away on the stage.

Also by 2007, Curious had established a national artistic reputation by mixing Denver debuts of Tony-winning plays  like “Proof” and “Take Me Out” with original commissions such as “The War Anthology,” an evening of short plays inspired by snapshots of America at war, written by 10 playwrights including three Pulitzer-winners: Tony Kushner, Suzan-Lori Parks and Paula Vogel.

The company also was being noticed for its innovative outreach and fundraising initiatives. Now in its ninth year, “Curious New Voices” is a year-round playwriting intensive that culminates in a three-day festival of new works spawned from the fertile minds of writers ages 15 to 21, and performed by dozens of local actors. For “Denver Stories,” Curious employs playwrights, directors and actors who present short original plays based on the lives of local celebrities and politicians. This high-society annual event now raises more than $100,000 for the company in a single night.

For the past few years, the work on-stage has been mostly hit, but also, as Montour-Larson earlier intimated … sometimes miss. So, two years ago, the “Think It! Do It!” grant came at the perfect time for the company to re-examine everything from how it was structured, to how plays were selected for performance, to just how big the organization should be, to this biggie: “Are are we doing the best work we can do?”

As an organization, Curious had been growing so fast in a volatile economy that Walton knew things had to slow down. So he recently entered into a conscious three-year period where the priority has shifted away from rapid growth to sustainable stabilization. “We’re an interesting case study,” Walton said, “because we’ve had a great influx of some very generous foundation support over the past few years (including a recent $500,000 catalyst grant from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation). But it is not support that is in perpetuity. So while the budget has grown accordingly and appropriately, now we have to make sure that we can sustain that budgetary level without those large foundation grants.”

But as a company of artists, Walton had a much dicier decision to make: As a collective, he knew the body count of company members needed to get much bigger — or much smaller.

“The company was then at an awkward size — 17 — in relationship to the size of the palate of our work,” Walton said. “It was just big enough so that there was no way I could give everybody in the company opportunities every season — but it was also still small enough that sometimes that felt really conspicuous to some of the company members. So whether you are a designer or director or actor — if it’s been two to three seasons since you’ve done a show at Curious, the question will inevitably surface: ‘Well, why is that?’ ”

The MetLife grant affords grantees the chance to visit other companies and compare notes. So Curious dispatched a team to the acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, which claims as many as 50 artists as company members. Walton had two key takeaways from that visit: “There is an incredibly competitive dynamic inside the Steppenwolf company that they all acknowledge, and they actually embrace,” he said. “And because of the sheer size of the company, no one who is in it is sitting around counting on an automatic artistic opportunity next season — because they know that not everyone it going to get one every year. They also know that when they get one, it’s a really exciting opportunity, and they should make they most of it.”

But rather than simply expand the already large acting pool, Curious has taken fully committed theater artists whose only job before was to bleed their hearts out on the stage, and given them real institutional responsibilities and an actual stake in the running of the company.

Karen Slack is one of those actors who has expanded her involvement with the company to an organizational level.

“It gives me a huge sense of ownership,” said Slack, “not just around the artistic company but around the organization a whole. It’s also given me a tremendous amount of perspective as to how many people it takes to actually get things done, and how hard everybody in that office works.”

Curious Theatre Company members Josh Hartwell (Hellcat Hartwell) and Jim Hunt (Luther)  (Jim Hunt) came to play at the wrestling-themed “Smackdown-A-Mania” promotion organized in September by producer in residence Karen Slack. Photo by John Moore.

The new Curious Theatre Company

After great deliberation, Walton recently named 31 actors and designers as Curious Theatre Company members, an increase of 14. They were chosen from among those who have worked on Curious mainstage shows in the past. Some not for many years, “but one of our core values will always be honoring individual contributions,” Walton said.

That said, Walton is also one competitive guy, and competition is another core value he holds dear. While most of those who were asked accepted their appointments as company members, not all did. A few decided, with no guarantees of roles in future shows, to just say no.

*Company members: The core members include 21 actors (14 of them men), two playwrights and eight designers or  directors. They come out in force on opening nights, a veritable army of name-tagged audience greeters.

*The artistic council: From among the core company group, six nominate themselves for one-year terms on the artistic council. In return for a small stipend, they participate at a deeper, executive level of company business, focusing on accountability, innovative thinking and risk-taking. That also includes serving on the in-house literary committee that considers titles for the upcoming season — though the final decisions rest with Walton.

*Featured company: Each year, up to five company members will be given the opportunity to participate at a deeper level in the organization, in non-artistic capacities. That might mean anything from attending fundraising brunches to placing thank-you phone calls to donors, in exchange for a small stipend.

*Artist-trustee: Curious’ new model calls for one company member to serve as an ex-officio (non-voting) member of the board of directors. That means, for the first time, when the venture capitalists and business leaders make the big board decisions that impact the direction of the artistic company, there is now, for the first time, the  opportunity for an artist to have a say in the conversation as well. Erik Sandvold, a veteran actor at both Curious and the Denver Center Theatre Company, is the first to hold that job.

*Producers in residence: Two company members will be selected annually for one-year, part-time paid staff positions that include producing community-wide outreach events, as well as fun marketing initiatives that support the company’s mainstage programming. The first two producer designees are Slack, a multiple award-winning company actor, and Montour-Larson, who mostly splits her time directing at Curious Theatre, the Denver Center Theatre Company and teaching theater at a local college.

Their primary jobs are to enrich and expand the audience’s experience with any given mainstage play through social outings called “Urban Adventures.” A recent example was “Clues and Brews” — a pub crawl/scavenger hunt that sent participants to some of Denver’s iconic bars in search of clues centered around the play. Slack also recently talked local comedians, actors and real-life wrestlers into participating in “Smackdown-A-Mania,” a ridiculous, mid-week night of silliness filled with sweat and spandex. Urban adventures are intended to entice a new kind of audience to come and check out the company. “Smackdown” promoted the regional premiere of  the innovative wrestling drama “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.”

Slack admits there’s a learning curve when you give a pure, undiluted actor responsibilities that once belonged to producers and trained staff. “I felt like the new kid at school who doesn’t know anybody,” she said. “But I think integrating artists back into the center of organizations is probably one of the smartest things you can do.

“I think most organizations don’t even consider having an actor at the table, because, they think, ‘What are they going to offer?’ The whole idea around this ‘producer-in-residence’ role is that we are at the table specifically because we think ‘out of the box.’ We are at the table because we are going to offer a ridiculous suggestion to do something like Smackdown-A-Mania. That is itself a testament that things are going to be totally different.”

Lessons learned

Montour-Larson said the two-year reinvention process has proven to be both scary and emotionally difficult for her, as she suspected it might at that first mountain retreat two years ago. “To go through a reinvention like this, one has to be very brave,” she said. “However, theater people are used to doing very scary and hard and brave things onstage. In the end, it was  difficult to separate the practical and the idealism from the personal. What I learned most is that this innovation process was bigger than all of us. And that Curious is far more than just a handful of people.”

Slack believes that by giving individual artists more ownership in the company, “that automatically changes the conversation you are going to have with people in the  community about your company,” she said. “Because now the company is offering you an opportunity to maintain your work not only as an artist, but to also expand yourself in a different capacity for the overall health and well-being of the entire organization. I think it’s very smart.”

Walton believes the reinvention of his organization will make Curious a more holistic organization. “And I believe this reinvention makes both the work we do on-stage — as well as the work that we do on a day-to-day basis in the office — better, and more informed and meaningful.”

Ticket information: Curious Theatre’s “Time Stands Still”

Now 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. Directed by Christy Montour-Larson. The cast includes Michael Morgan, David Russell, Tara Falk and Devon James.

Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays.

Information: At 1080 Acoma St. Call 303-623-0524 or go to curious’ home page

 

Curious Theatre: 2012 artistic company

Artistic council
Dee Covington (actress/playwright/director)
Shannon McKinney (lighting designer)
Christy Montour-Larson (director)*
Erik Sandvold, (actor)
Karen Slack (actor)
Chip Walton (founder, director)
*Also producers in residence

Additional company
Lisa Boehm (stage manager)
Paul Borrillo (actor)
Kevin Brainerd (costume designer)
Ed Cord (actor)
Laurence Curry (actor)
Richard Devin (lighting designer)
Jason Ducat (sound designer)
Brian Landis Folkins (actor)
Kathryn Gray (actor)
Bill Hahn (actor)
Josh Hartwell (actor/playwright)
Markas Henry (costume and scenic designer)
Jim Hunt (actor)
John Jurcheck (actor)
Christopher Leo (director)
C. Kelly Leo (actor)
Cajardo Lindsey (actor)
Michael McNeill (actor)
Michael Morgan (actor)
Josh Robinson (actor)
Jada Roberts (actor)
Jessica Robblee (actor)
David Russell (actor)
Mare Trevathan (actor)
Todd Webster (actor)

 

Creede Rep season will mark dawn of Jackson era – and zombies

Company veteran Christy Brandt will star in “The Language of Trees” in 2013. Photo by John Moore.

 

By John Moore

Nov. 2, 2012

The Creede Repertory Theatre’s first full season under new artistic director Jessica Jackson will reflect the company’s longstanding commitment to mixing groundbreaking new work with Broadway musicals and theater for children. But the 48th summer season at the acclaimed theater nestled in the mountains 250 miles south of Denver will also mark a comeback for two old favorites: Shakespeare and zombies — in the same show.

The town of Creede, Colorado. Photo by John Moore.

The slate includes “The Tamin’ of the Shrew” — Shakespeare’s famous battle of the sexes, but given a Western setting in a new adaptation by  Nagle Jackson.  Also being offered is “William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead,” by John Heimbuch. It’s an acclaimed and surprisingly serious new play that tells the story of the actors at Shakespeare’s Globe Playhouse having to perform in 1599 while a zombie plague transforms London’s citizens into undead monsters. “Think ‘Shakespeare in Love’ meets ’28 Days Later,’ ” Jackson said of the period romance and the apocalyptic tale of an incurable virus that devastates the United Kingdom. “It’s not camp. It’s scary and heroic.”

It will be the first time Creede Rep has offered Shakespeare in any form since a clever twin bill of “Hamlet” and  “I Hate Hamlet” in 2003.

Jackson officially took over as artistic director in the middle of last summer’s season for Maurice LaMee, who left after 12 years as both artistic and executive director to teach theater at Mesa State University. But he is expected to return to Creede regularly to direct.

Veteran actor Christy Brandt will be featured in a dark new war drama called “The Language of Trees” by Steven Levenson. It’s about a family forced to confront the complexities of neighbors — both on your street and abroad. The annual Broadway musical offering will be the 1965 classic, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

Creede Rep has also announced the appointment of interim executive director Cat Augur to the permanent E.D. position. The announcements were made Thursday at Creede Rep’s opening-night performance of “Harry the Great,” running through Nov. 11 in a special engagement at the Lone Tree Arts Center in Douglas County (720-509-1000).

Here is a brief look at each 2013 offering. Specific run dates will be announced early next year.  (Play descriptions provided by Creede Rep):

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart

Light, fast-paced, witty, irreverent and one of the funniest musicals ever written. This classic takes comedy back to its roots, combining situations from the time-tested comedies of Roman playwright Plautus with the infectious energy of classic vaudeville.  In exchange for his freedom, Pseudolus, a crafty slave, struggles to win the hand of a beautiful courtesan for his young master, Hero. The plot twists and turns with cases of mistaken identity and slamming doors – culminating in musical theater’s funniest farce. Rated PG

“Around the World in 80 Days”
Adapted by Mark Brown from the novel by Jules Verne

Stampeding elephants … Raging typhoons … Runaway trains … Join fearless adventurer Phileas Fogg and his faithful servant as they race around the world. Having agreed to an outrageous wager that puts his fortune and his life at risk, Fogg sets out to circle the globe in a miraculous 80 days. Danger, romance, and comic surprises abound in this whirlwind of a show as five actors portraying 39 characters traverse seven continents in this brilliantly physical adaptation of the greatest adventure of all time. Rated G

“The Tamin’ of the Shrew”
By William Shakespeare
In a new setting by Nagle Jackson

It’s Shakespeare’s wild battle of the sexes set amongst the saloons, bar girls, and crusty prospectors of the old west.  The bard’s comic love-hate story has entertained audiences for generations.  In CRT’s creative production, Shakespeare meets the six-shooter in a rowdy, knock-down-drag-out fight between fierce Kate and her fortune-seeking suitor, Petruchio.  Rated PG

“William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead”
By John Heimbuch

A true and accurate account of the 1599 zombie plague. It is opening night at the Globe Playhouse, but while the actors strut and fret, an excess of bile plagues the populace outside. As the affliction transforms London’s citizens into undead monsters, the Globe is placed on lock-down and the survivors within must fight for their lives. Can they escape? Is there a cure? Is artistic integrity ever worth dying for?
PG-13

“The Language of Trees”
By Steven Levenson
Christy Brandt stars in this beautiful, haunting tale of a family left behind.  When an American translator ventures to a Middle East combat zone, an overfriendly neighbor volunteers to help his wife and son as they come to terms with his absence. As events abroad begin to spiral out of control, lives are turned upside down, and all are forced to confront the complexities of war, the fragility of language, and the meaning of neighborliness in uncertain times.  Rated R

Boomtown
Annual Improv Comedy
Armed with only an audience suggestion and their fertile (some might say twisted) imaginations, these hilarious, inventive, and often bizarre actors perform an unscripted show inspired by the audience. PG-13

“Pants on Fire”
Each made-up, original 50-minute show is based upon the life of one kid in the audience. But sometimes, fiction really is stranger than truth.  It’s someone’s real story  –  the actors  add the music, talking animals and a fun-sized dose of weird.G

More information: http://www.creederep.org