Breaking news: Fourth actor takes reins of “Other Desert Cities” in its final weekend


Kate Berry stars in “Other Desert Cities” at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Photo by Jeff Kearney.

 

By John Moore
March 30, 2013

Arp.John.vert

There’s been another twist in the wild tale of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s Colorado premiere of the celebrated play “Other Desert Cities.” David Hastings is now the fourth actor to play the role of Lyman in a staging that has had more real surprises than the best fictional drama.

You may have read here that actor Daniel Noel had a heart attack Thursday afternoon and was replaced by multiple award-winning Denver actor John Arp, who performed that night with just one 30-minute rehearsal. Arp was in a unique position to help because he’s already prepping to understudy the same role in the otherwise unrelated production of “Other Desert Cities” the Denver Center Theatre Company is currently presenting in preview performances. It officially opens on April 4.

Arp played the role in Colorado Springs on Thursday and Friday, when more unexpected drama struck back at his home theater in Denver. Arp is understudying for actor Mike Hartman as Lyman in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s own “Other Desert Cities” production. The DCTC decided Saturday morning to put Arp on “a show-by-show standby” status after Hartman began to lose his voice, Fine Arts Center artistic director Scott Levy said. “So they will not release him to go on for us Saturday or Sunday.”

Poor, poor Lymans … everywhere.

Luckily Hastings, named best actor for his role in Star Bar Player’s “Night and Her Stars” by the Pikes Peak Art Council in 2007, was standing by. “He was able to watch the show (Friday) night, and we had a two-hour put-in rehearsal later (Saturday) morning,” Levy said. Hastings performed Saturday’s two performances and will finsh off with the closing performance at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Arp, winner of a record three Denver Post Ovation Awards for “best year by an actor,” took the stage on Thursday with a script in his hands, but not for the words, which he knew; rather because, “I needed to know where to walk,” he said.

“He gave a fabulous performance,” Levy said.

Ironically, Hartman soldiered through on Saturday, and Arp was not expected to be needed to go on in the DCTC’s “Other Desert Cities.” When Arp got that word, he offered his services to Levy again. But by that time, the production had been through enough changes, so it was decided Hastings would go on.

Noel, who was joined the Colorado Springs cast a week into production, is in stable condition, resting in a Colorado Springs hospital. He took over for an actor who left for personal reasons.

Understudies are an amazing thing. In December, local actor Michael E. Gold was called on to perform in Denver Center Attractions’ “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” when the actor cast in the lead role of Bob lost his voice mid-performance. Gold finished the performance, and took over for the next two weeks, even though he had suffered the “widow-maker” heart attack just five days before.

But then again, neither Arp nor Hastings were even understudies. They were deus-ex-rescuers.

“Other Desert Cities” plays in Colorado Springs through Sunday, March 31, at 30 W. Dale St., 719-634-5583, or http://www.csfineartscenter.org/. Remaining showtime: 2 p.m. Sunday.

The story at a glance: When Brooke Wyeth arrives at her parents’ Palm Springs mansion on Christmas Eve with the manuscript of her tell-all memoir in tow, she unearths a devastating family secret. The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center gets a jump on the Denver Center Theatre Company in presenting the Colorado premiere of this 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist written by Jon Robin Baitz. Strong language, adult situations and drug use.

Anatomy of a theater director: A daily Q&A with Colorado’s creative minds

8614334858_b5ae19ea0c_o

 

By John Moore
May 3, 2013

My return to directing (“Always … Patsy Cline,” which closed April 27 at the PACE Center), had me revisiting a story idea I always wanted to do for The Denver Post, but never got around to: The anatomy of the theater director. So I am doing it now, while shamelessly cribbing off all the wonderful advice I am getting.

I asked some of the most prolific and respected directors in town one individual, tailored question about the craft, process and problem-solving of directing for the live theater. And two quick follow-ups for the entire panel.

Each day, I added a new director to this report. I didn’t get everyone I wanted but am so grateful for those that I did. I hope you enjoy this insight into one of the most important but seldom-discussed aspects of the creative process.

There is now a new addendum to this series to share with you. Think of Day 40 as a post-mortem on our “Anatomy of a Theater Director” series. It features a testy journalist named John Moore interviewing a churlish theater director named John Moore.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

Director No. 39: Kent Thompson.

KentThompson Most recent directing project: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Other Desert Cities”

Upcoming directing project: World premiere of “Just Like Us,” opening Oct. 10 at the Denver Center Theatre Company.

Your question: What are one or two valuable lessons you have learned about directing over the course of your career that you wish you could go back and whisper into the ear of the young Kent Thompson who was directing his first few shows out of the gate?

I would tell young Kent: ‘Every actor works a different way. As does every designer, playwright, etc. Articulacy and persuasion are just as important as directing’ — which a lot of people underestimate in thinking that it’s telling actors what to do. The hardest part of directing most shows is ‘bringing the ship into port.’ Forcing yourself to zoom back from the intimate, imaginative and deeply personal process of rehearsal (and all your brilliant ideas!) so you can see the show anew during dress and previews. Then finding the courage to change things that are not working — even if it unsettles everyone and is risky.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Vision. Curiosity.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Know why you must direct this particular play now; inspire everyone else with your vision; describe how we will get there; then persuade everyone to collaborate, contribute, and improve the vision.
Director No. 38: Chip Walton.

chipwaltonportrait Most recent directing project: “God of Carnage,” running through June 8 at Curious Theatre (303-623-0524).

Your question: Say you just don’t like the way an actor is delivering a key line. Does a good director tell the actor exactly how you want the line delivered, so he/she knows exactly what you mean … or should the director give him/her something to think about in the hope that they will arrive at your way of thinking over time?

A good director never gives a line-reading, but always tries to help the actor get to where they think they need to be, including line delivery. I’m a big believer in technique -— so I tend to give a lot of notes about inflection, emphasis, playing through the end of lines, etc. — because I think the delivery of a line can be instrumental in how an audience receives it. This requires actors with a certain amount of training and technique, but with those tools in place, these questions of “line readings” become much easier to address. For example, I am currently working on ‘God of Carnage,’ and the last few lines of the play are very tricky, both in terms of tone and message. As we have worked on it, we have talked very little about ’emotion,’ and a lot about words like ‘feeble,’ or ‘slower,’ or ‘feathered.’ Given that we have such a strong company of actors who share a very common vocabulary, this is very common to how we work here at Curious.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Vision.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: My directing philosophy is to arrive at the rehearsal room with a strong vision, leave plenty of room for good collaborative ideas from others, and never be afraid to embrace questions, rather than always feeling like you need answers.

 

 

Director No. 37: Geoff Kent.

geoff Most recent directing project: “You Can’t Take it With You,” for TheatreWorks in Colorado Springs

Upcoming projects: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” opening June 7 at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
 in Boulder, and “Metamorphoses,” opening Aug. 16 at the Aurora Fox

Your question: “According to the Institute of Outdoor Drama, overall paid attendance at outdoor Shakespeare festivals is down more than 60 percent since 1994. So how should a director approach directing a Shakespeare play in 2013 in a way that will be true to the text, but also capture the imaginations of an audience that is drifting away?”

Tough question. We’ve been running the bard across the theater boards for more than 450 years. I think we have all heard the adage that his stories are timeless and resonate today. And I wholeheartedly agree. But cracking him open to today’s audiences is still a mean feat. I suppose on one hand, we can liven it up with technology: Ariel as a hologram projected on mist; epic scenic transformations, the ‘Macbeth’ witches chanting via Tweets. Hell, even the Royal Shakespeare Company is currently collaborating with Google for an online, interactive ‘Midsummer’ experience.

Framing the play in a setting that illuminates the themes to a modern audience helps to erase the feeling that it is outdated and stuffy. I once staged ‘Macbeth’ in the Wild West. You might set ‘The Tempest’ on the moon, or ‘The Comedy of Errors’ … with pirates! This summer, we are certainly aiming for a ‘ “Downton Abbey” meets “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” ‘ atmosphere. And next fall, I will be acting in a ‘Taming of the Shrew’ that is being billed as ‘ “Showboat” meets “Maverick” meets “Gone with the Wind.” ‘ Gimmicks, maybe. … But sexy gimmicks.

However, when the rubber hits the road with Shakespeare, it is still all about the language. And if a director and the cast can crack it open, and speak the speech clearly so that you don’t need footnotes or a cheat-sheet to follow it, the plays stand on their own merit. They still make an audience bust a gut … or weep openly.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Passion.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: To create an atmosphere in the rehearsal room where any idea can be fearlessly pursued.

 

 

Director No. 36: Robert Kramer.

kramer Most recent directing project: “Race,” the inaugural show at the new space for the Edge Theater

Upcoming projects: “Collected Stories,” with Billie McBride and Devon James; “Wonder of the World” and “It’s A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play,” all at Miners Alley Playhouse

Your question: Once rehearsals begin, what are the time-sucking traps that directors should be on the lookout for that can distract you from using your valuable time in the best possible way?

Time management is vitally important; not just because there is a limited amount of it in the rehearsal process, but also so your actors feel valued. The most popular thing a director with a big cast can do is make an incredibly specific schedule that calls actors only at the times they are needed, and then STICK TO IT! I also never run cue-to-cues with actors and always separate out the time spent with designers so that they can have my full attention and feel valued as well. In the actual process, the most dangerous derailing element is also a valuable one — conversations with actors. If you dismiss these during rehearsal, it can alienate an actor. and cause them to both share and collaborate less. But the flip-side is just as costly. So I tend to allow for a certain amount and then budget time after every rehearsal for extended talking time with actors. Then the impetus to triage these concerns falls on the actor — if it is truly important, they will stay and chat. If not, it typically was a minor or momentary issue they can work out on their own.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Vision.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: My job as a director is to show everyone at their best: The actor, the playwright, everyone.

 

 

Director No. 35: Warren Sherrill.

WARREN Most recent project: Acted in “The Seafarer” for Ashton Entertainment at the Aurora Fox.

Upcoming project: The Paragon Theatre co-founder will direct “Dust Storm” for Theatre Esprit Asia, opening May 30 at the Vintage Theatre in Aurora (303-856-7830).

Your question: Directing has moved past the rehearsal room and into your actors’ e-mail boxes. Now that technology has made communicating with your cast and crew so much easier, some directors use every second in the rehearsal room for work, and then later send out long, specific overnight notes via e-mail. I’m not so sure this is the best way to be communicating the finer points of your production. There’s no dialogue, just a directive to “change this,” or “try something else.” It seems much could be misinterpreted in the absence of tone or direct response. Do you ascribe to “notes by e-mail,” or do you prefer direct dialogue, even if that cuts into your rehearsal time?

There’s no doubt about it: E-mail has certainly changed the way we do theater. I think those of us who have day jobs can relate to the fact that e-mail has taken over a large part of everyday communication. Time-saving? Definitely. Effective? Meh.

The way I like to use e-mail when directing a show is for communication that really isn’t dialogue driven … most of this happens with the tech crew, not with the actors. Communications that can happen without having to call a special production meeting but need to be addressed, such as lists, basic “how to’s” or instructions, answers, or even questions that require a simple answer. This is where e-mail helps in the birth of a production — and I always make sure to include the WHOLE team in every email, as this ultimately saves a lot of back-tracking during crucial production meetings.

With actors, I do my absolute best not to e-mail directing notes. There will always be the little e-mail here and there, such as, “Don’t forget to take that suitcase off after scene 2” — things that can be addressed simply and quickly. To me, face-to-face communication AND DIALOGUE with your actors is the key to a good production … especially during the last few rehearsals. There is no time for misinterpretations. I want opinions, I want feedback and ideas … and from everyone involved in the show. It makes it much more of a team effort and creates the mutual sense of “ownership” that is so crucial in the end.

As for time concerns? My theory always has been that you should give yourself enough time to end on time. If rehearsal is scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m … then finish at 10 p.m. … with notes. It can be done. No excuses.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Honesty.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: My attitude is that director should eventually become an invisible character on the stage. … Only the actors and crew can see him, and that character can make or break the show.

 

Editor’s note: The following entries offer two perspectives on the same (volatile) topic.

Director No. 34: Scott RC Levy.

Scott Most recent directing project: “Other Desert Cities” for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Upcoming project: Making my Colorado acting debut as “Man in Chair” in “The Drowsy Chaperone” here at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, ooening May 9.

Your question: Acting is an inherently vulnerable endeavor. What do you do if, in the normal course of rehearsing, your actor has some kind of a breakdown. Your show hangs in the balance. How do you salvage things, and quickly?

If my work as a director brings out an “emotional breakdown” from an actor, then the actor has more serious problems that need to be dealt with, and I probably shouldn’t have hired them in the first place. I would probably tell them to suck it up — and immediately try to find a replacement. We don’t have time to deal with that nonsense, nor is it my job to serve as the actor’s babysitter.

But yes, sometimes the work is emotionally raw and honest — and sometimes what appears to be a meltdown is actually a breakthrough of some sort. If there were a situation in which an individual actor were exhibiting signs that made the piece need to be salvaged, I would simply have a private conversation with the actor to get to the root of the issue, give them some time to regroup, and then move on. Especially in a drama, what I try to remind actors is that if and when they are successful at having an emotional release, when we rehearse or perform the scene next, they can not go back and look for that same emotion, because chances are they won’t be able to access it again, as it won’t be of the moment and on the breath.

For actors, use your emotion. If you speak the words on the emotion and breathe on the emotion (instead of trying to exhale breath and throw away the emotion before speaking), then your emotion will transform into something else. It’s basic human nature. We don’t stay in one emotion for very long.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Chutzpah.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Honor the collaboration; create a fun and trust-filled room (rehearsal and performance); tell the story that has been written with thought and feeling; and never forget the audience.

 

 

Director No. 33: Jennifer McCray Rincon.

rincon Most recent directing projects: I am working on building up Visionbox, an actors’ studio and production Company in the Santa Fe Drive the arts district. Projects in development are: The American Chekhov Project; an adaptation of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”; and Crisis Actors, a new company developing training videos and live re-enactments of emergencies in schools in Colorado.

Your question: Acting is an inherently vulnerable endeavor. What do you do if, in the normal course of rehearsing, your actor has some kind of a breakdown. Your show hangs in the balance. How do you salvage things, and quickly?

So if an actor has a meltdown, I suppose I would try to remind them that personalization is about the life of the character, and that their ability to walk in someone else’s shoes is the real truth in acting. Not what is going on in their own experience. And that by putting attention on the other character on stage, their work will be more intuitively true and free. Self is paradoxically our worst enemy onstage. All attention goes on to the others, other character’s on stage. It is not about you.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Humility.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: The director is responsible first and foremost for the spine of the play. This is Harold Clurman: the spine is the human need that propels the play. Everything comes from that. The other characters’ journey or spine or superobjectives must connect to the spine of the play. This is the directors’ responsibility to define and organize. Also as Elia Kazan has said, the director translates the psychology of the play into behavior on stage. Nikos Psacharopoulos, my first teacher who convinced me to direct instead of act, always focused on the behavior of the play.

 

 

Director No. 32: Nick Sugar.

sugar2 Most recent directing projects: “Forever Plaid” for the Town Hall Arts Center, and “Noises Off” for Starkey Theatrix at the Lone Tree Arts Center

Upcoming projects: “Hair,” opening May 17 at the Town Hall Arts Center; “Minimum Wage,” opening June 21 at the Avenue Theater.

Your questions: As a director, what are some of the most common, deal-breaker mistakes you often observe actors make at an audition? As an actor, what is the most annoying thing you have observed a director do at an audition?

First question, common actor mistakes:

Perception is key. An actor needs to learn how they are perceived at an audition, as well as onstage. Several times a very talented actor will audition with the wrong material. Perhaps a song choice that is not appropriate for the style of show they are auditioning for, or auditioning for a character they would not be right for. As a director, it makes me question how they perceive themselves, and if we see don’t see eye-to-eye on a character, it could make the process of creating that character a challenge for both of us. An actor really captures my attention when I know they have researched the show, the character and the music style that I am looking for, ALL in 24 to 36 bars of music! Also, if an actor is truly not willing to accept any role in the production, they should not say they are willing. Honesty is always appreciated. An actor-and-director relationship begins at the audition process. Honesty saves a lot of time in the casting process, and it is something I remember from one audition to the next.”

Second question, common director mistakes:

The audition process is very challenging for all! I try not to focus on the director’s energy at an audition. You can’t know what is going on in his or her head. I practice the same thing I tell my students: It’s your time to do what you love. If you truly love it, and have spent a lot of time and money studying this craft, then just come into an audition as if you are walking on stage for a performance: Prepared, confident and professional. It’s your three minutes … Own it!”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Trust. I need to trust the people I cast. I need them to trust my vision.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Tell the story!

 

Director No. 31: Brian Freeland.

freeland Most recent directing project: The LIDA Project’s “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.”

Upcoming directing project: “The Hairy Ape,” opening May 10 at the LIDA Project work | space,
2701 Lawrence St., 720-221-3821 or LIDA’s home page.

Your question: What are the most important attributes in a director who is creating a devised, original piece of theater along with an ensemble over a longer period of time than normal?

Being a director of devised work is more akin to drawing the short straw on a taser test. You are placed in the almost impossible task of pushing an ensemble to create theatrical work in new and often incredibly risky ways, while always providing a stable, grounded, environment to create. In the void of a formal theater structure, the role of director in devised work is equal parts playwright, dramaturge, audience, producer and critic. There is no “answer” to devised work, no previous performance, no “right way.” Being able to remove the fear is the most important attribute.

Working with an ensemble on devised work over a sustained period of time only can make the language of the work stronger. From a director’s eye, the ensemble only shows its strengths, proclivities, bad habits, etc., over time. It is only from creating a long and sustained body of work that an ensemble can truly work together and a director of such work can get at the true core.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Devotion.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Artists can never expect growth from an audience if they have not made a dedication to their own growth.

 

Director No. 30: Anthony Powell.

Anthony Powell 0910 B&W Most recent directing project: For the last few years, I’ve been operating in full-tilt “Jack-of-all-Trades” mode with Stories on Stage, which is a joy.

Upcoming project: In August, I’ll begin directing “Death of a Salesman” for the Denver Center Theatre Company. The offer came not too long ago like a bolt out of the blue, and needless to say, I am one unbelievably grateful puppy.

Your question: It’s tech week: The hours are long. The work is tedious. You’re being asked to make major decisions every 10 seconds. Everyone wants a piece of you. You seem to be doing everything except what you really want to be doing, which is working with the actors on the play. From mindset to what food you pack … What is your tech week survival strategy?

I’ve always been a bit of a weirdo among my peers because I actually love techs. They’re a hoot. You get a whole slew of cool new toys to play with (like sets and lights and sound); members of the artistic team who haven’t been in the rehearsal hall on a daily basis are suddenly running around all the time, infusing the show with their vision and energy and excitement; and — best of all — as director, you get to take a little vacation from the play and the actors and concentrate on other things for a while. Even more importantly, the actors get to take a little vacation from YOU. Techs can be goofy fun and a refreshing time for everybody.

Which is not to say that I don’t experience those idiotic tech moments when one starts thinking like Captain Queeg, obsessing about strawberries and duplicate keys, and wondering why everyone is trying to “RUIN MY PLAY?!?” That kind of ego-driven nuttiness is a function of not getting enough rest, and my only solution for it is to take some deep breaths and remember that this isn’t my play, it’s the team’s play, and that now might be a good time to concentrate on helping other people instead of worrying about oneself.

Besides, rolling those silver ball-bearings around in my hand all the time has a way of freaking people out.

Whenever I start heading down to Crazytown during techs, I try (… TRY!) to recall something my mentor Donovan Marley was always fond of saying: “The best idea in the room is the best idea in the room is the best idea in the room, whether it happens to be your idea — or someone else’s.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Openness.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Whenever possible, say, “Yes, let’s try that,” to members of your team — instead of, “No, that won’t work,” because when you can hazard saying “yes” on a fairly regular basis, the good ideas begin to flow, and the less effective ones commence falling out of orbit under their own weight.

 

Director No. 29: A. Lee Massaro.

ALM Most recent directing project: “On an Average Day,” at Curious Theatre

Upcoming directing project: “Dividing the Estate,” opening Tuesday at the Arvada Center

Your question: What’s one practice or method or exercise or advice or anecdote you ever personally observed from a director you learned from, and it affected you so greatly, you incorporated it into the way you have directed ever since?

I assisted the wonderful director James Nicola when I first came to town 20 years ago. (Is that possible?) I remember an actor getting emotional and dropping his head. James asked the actor to look up instead so that the audience could see “the symphony in his eyes.” I find actors have a tendency to focus downward and go “internal” when we most need to experience that symphony, so I often quote this advice. It’s a simple thing, but it often makes the difference between the audience merely watching the action — and being moved by it.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Humility.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: I like to collaborate with great people, and strike a balance between rigor and play in the pursuit of truthful moments.

 

 

(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of our series, “Anatomy of a Theater Director”)

Outtakes: My night at ‘Pardon My Dust’

DSC_0697
Billie McBride as Dorothy Parker.

 

By John Moore, March 24, 2013

Opening No. 50, And Toto Too Productions’ “Pardon My Dust”: “I don’t care what anybody says about me … as long as it isn’t true.” That’s one of the many Dorothy Parker witticisms actor Billie McBride quick-fires while portraying one of the greatest wits of the 20th century. Denver’s only theater company dedicated to women’s voices opens its eighth season with the regional premiere of this new play by Anne Welsbacher. Parker has died, is in limbo, and she has a lot of baggage to shed — literally and metaphorically — before moving on to the next phase of her journey. Also starring Paul Page. Directed by Susan Lyles. Through April 6 at the Laundry on Lawrence, 2701 Lawrence St., 720-583-3975, or and toto too’s home page. Thanks to Lauren Meyer.

This photo gallery is part of my ongoing, 2013 labor-of-love photo series called “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes all over Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the actual, official photo series featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 51 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0643
Artistic director Susan Lyles, right, has a cheap but reliable labor force at her disposal, meaning her two young sons.

 

DSC_0627
Eden Lane, host of “In Focus with Eden Lane,” interviewed Billie McBride, left, and Paul Page before Friday’s show for a segment that airs at 7 p.m. Friday, March 29.

 

DSC_0629
DSC_0659
And Toto Too performs in the “work/space” at the Laundry on Lawrence, run by Denver’s LIDA Project theater company.

 

DSC_0647
Paul Page, who plays a variety of characters collectively known as Janus, checks out the spread of theater print memorabilia that adorns Dorothy Parker’s desk.

 

DSC_0650
In 1947, a balcony seat to a Broadway play would set you back all of $1.80.

 

DSC_0681
Hair, eyes … feet! Billie McBride preps her dawgs for Friday’s performance.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of our photos from our visit to “Pardon Our Dust”)

Outtakes: My day at Magic Moments’ ‘Spirit & Soul’

DSC_0583

 

By John Moore, March 24, 2013

Opening No. 49, Magic Moments’ “Spirit & Soul”: That’s 193 people — count ’em! — at the curtain call for Magic Moments’ 30th annual pop-music revue at Kent Denver High School. Magic Moments integrates disabled and able-bodied cast members of all abilities, ages and experience levels for a show that has now raised more than $200,000 for organizations that provide services for people with special needs. “Spirit and Soul” is set within the context of a traveling revival show where a betrayal from within the ranks tests the faith of all involved. Songs from musicals “Spring Awakening,” “Jesus Christ, Superstar” and rock icons The Who, Queen, Kenny Loggins, Bare Naked Ladies, Lyle Lovett. There is even a number by recent Grammy darlings fun., as well as evangelical tunes like Matthew West’s “Forgiveness.” Something for everyone. Directed by K.Q. Starring Keegan Flaugh, Keith Hershman and … everyone else, including familiar local actors such as Amy Board, Sarah Rex and many others. Remaining showtime: 2 p.m. today, Sunday, March 24, at the Anschutz Family Theatre, 4000 E. Quincy Ave., Englewood, 303-607-7555. Thanks to Duncan R. Northern, Ted Kuenz, cast and crew.

Read more about Magic Moments in my earlier story here.

This photo gallery is part of my ongoing, 2013 labor-of-love photo series called “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes all over Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the actual, official photo series featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 49 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0570
It’s Amy Board with the plague … Tell me you don’t want a piece of that!

 

DSC_0594
They call TJ Board the “special needs coordinator,” but something has clearly gone wrong in his interaction skills here. Something about whether Coke is better than Pepsi.

 

DSC_0432
For some reason, the director known only as K.Q. never seems to go anywhere without his teddy bear.

 

DSC_0550
A very prominent piece of advice posted throughout the backstage area.

 

DSC_0617
Friday’s overnight snowstorm threatened to wreak havoc on Saturday’s two scheduled performances. But Magic Moments cast and crew are used to conquering far greater obstacles than snow.

 

DSC_0443

 

 

DSC_0452
It takes a whole lot of volunteers to get stage makeup applied to all 193 cast members.

 

DSC_0563

 

DSC_0464
Molly Nash isn’t shy about her excitement over having a solo in the 2013 show — singing, “I’m Shy,” from “Once Upon a Mattress.”

 

DSC_0415
These are just some of the dozens of vocal body mics the actors wear during the show.

DSC_0459
Director K.Q. and the actors who play roadies in the show gather to talk over some on-stage logistics.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of our photos from Magic Moments’ “Spirit & Soul.”)

Revisiting “Marisol” in Colorado Springs means revisiting Armageddon in New York

DSC_0722

 

By John Moore
March 24, 2013

photo(1)

There’s a lot that’s still freaking me out about revisiting the apocalyptic drama “Marisol” for the first time in eight years last Sunday — not the least of which is that afterward, I couldn’t concretely answer when I was asked how Theatre ‘d Art’s current staging in Colorado Springs compares to the late Denver experimental Pangaea Theatre Company’s staging that introduced me to José Rivera’s celebrated story back in 2005.

“Marisol” is not the kind of experience you forget; not with Armageddon playing out on Earth as it is in a Heaven where millions of angels have declared war on a senile God. The battle has left burned clouds hanging charred over unprotected cities that are self-destructing into an unrecognizable world where it snows in hot weather, apples are made of salt, the moon has disappeared and homeless people are burned by Nazis like trash. Hard to forget.

I remember Matthew Schultz’s Denver staging vividly. I just couldn’t, oddly, recall much of what I thought of it then. Or, more important, what I thought of Rivera’s play, which got some votes a few years ago when I polled a national panel on the most important American plays ever written. The synapses dangled just out of reach, like an ephemeral dream in keeping with Rivera’s play.

Google was no help. Turns out we writers’ words are not as immortal as, say, Rivera’s warring angels. Funny, you can be the victim of a hit-and-run journalism collision in the form of an irresponsibly reported Westword media column written about you (OK, me) years ago, and yet, it still comes up first thing on a Google name search. But apparently the things you actually write eventually come to be as endangered as the transmorphing Bronx that Rivera creates in his play.

I eventually found my review of that 2005 production, and I was encouraged to discover that both stagings, despite their signature bleakness and violence, actually left me with a sense of hope. Must be the apocalyptic Irishman in me.

I have intentionally left reviewing theater behind, at least at this present stage of my unemployed life, in favor of more innovative methods of spreading the word about the wide array of theater being offered throughout Colorado. Still, maybe some of what I wrote about “Marisol” in 2005 might yet illuminate and complement the experience that Theatre ‘d Art director Anna Faye Hunter’s theatergoers are having in Colorado Springs right now.

Here are some selected excerpts of my review from that staging, which starred Laura Chavez with Hugo E. Carbajal, James O’Hagan-Murphy and Katie German. (Published in the Denver Post on March 22, 2005):

Three years ago, Curious Theatre audiences saw experimental Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera wash Los Angeles away in an apocalyptic flood in “Cloud Tectonics.”

Now they can see Rivera lay waste to New York in a mystical urban nightmare called “Marisol.” It’s part of a trio of plays the Pangaea Theatre Company is currently staging about homelessness.

Rivera has a peculiar, poetic view of Armageddon: American society, uniquely diseased by crime, drugs, political corruption and moral ambivalence, deserves to be blasted into nuclear winter. Fair enough. But Rivera is a sunny fatalist, because he always offers a small strain of hope upon which we might rebuild.

In “Cloud Tectonics,” that hope comes in the form of a new life. In the grittier “Marisol,” that new life is delivered stillborn to a somewhat psychotic, pregnant man. No, the hope here comes instead from having the courage to take up the sword against God himself.

To some, Rivera is a poetic social visionary. To Variety, his work is “heavy-handed message-mongering.” And they’re both right. Rivera is an esoteric rebel whose mentor was Gabriel (the ultimate angel) Garcia Marquez, and whose resume includes “The Motorcycle Diaries” screenplay.

“Marisol,” named best off-Broadway play of 1993, is the surprisingly accessible, if at times unfocused, story of an educated young Bronx woman named Marisol Perez who escapes a random attack by a golf club-wielding thug on the subway. Her guardian angel saved her, as he has repeatedly throughout Marisol’s life. But this is the last time, he tells her.

Sporting wings and military fatigues, the angel says God has grown old and senile. The angels will drop their wings at the turn of the millennium and kill God to stop the hemorrhaging of human suffering. This is a daring artistic and risky argument for Rivera to suggest that God can be both fallible and mortal at once. But it’s not as if he’s doubting the existence of God. Just his level of engagement in the world he has created.

Soon the play’s loose literalism surrenders to a surreality. As thousands of fallen angels begin to drop from the sky to their embattled deaths, New York as we know it disappears. Buildings vanish, leaving a vast wasteland where boroughs become indistinguishable, and even the Earth’s moon is fleeing the galaxy.

Absent the protection of her preoccupied angel, Marisol is left to fend off attacks from all around. She makes a survival pact with pal June, whose simpleton of a brother, Lenny, grows menacingly obsessed with Marisol.

The remaining humans are left in a vast, directionless wasteland to fend against Nazi punks. They are called “the minions of TRW” (a strong indictment of America’s all-powerful credit agencies), and they go search for the homeless and other patsies to set ablaze.

“Marisol” requires that its audiences afford it more than a little narrative leeway. Its performance here ultimately hangs on the harried but valiant actor Laura Chavez, who at times seems to hold this fraying world together simply on the strength of her clenched teeth.

Theatre d’ Art’s “Marisol” plays through March 31 at 8 p.m. Fridays through Sundays at 128 N. Nevada St., Colorado Springs, 719-357-8321 or theatre ‘d art’s home page.

Go to our full photo gallery of “Marisol” photos taken for our ongoing “It’s Opening Night in Colorado theater” series.

Outtakes: My night at Theatre ‘d Art’s ‘Marisol’

DSC_0593

“I’m looking for my lost skin. Have you seen my lost skin? It was once very pretty. We were very close. I was really attached to it.” — Joseph Forbeck, as “Man with Scar Tissue.” In this photo, Forbeck in the process of having his makeup applied backstage by artist Sarah Nasatka.

 

By John Moore
March 20, 2013

Opening No. 47, Theatre ‘d Art’s “Marisol”: Celebrated playwright José Rivera’s celestial vision of the apocalypse is seen through the eyes of Marisol Perez, an “everywoman” on a harrowing journey through a surrealistic Bronx. It’s Armageddon in the heavens as millions of angels have declared war on a senile God. And in their distracted absence, it’s end times on Earth as unprotected cities self-destruct into unidentifiable morasses. The play is a vibrant portrayal of an unrecognizable world where it snows in hot weather, apples are made of salt, the moon has disappeared and homeless people are burned by Nazis like trash. As depressing as all this sounds, the play is really a search for God and hope — in an insane world of derelicts and skinheads. If audiences are disturbed by Rivera’s world view, one should ask what it was about his cultural experience here that led him to create this representative place in his mind. Through March 31. Directed by Anna Faye Hunter. Starring Margarita Archilla as Marisol and also featuring Brittani Janish, Benjamin Bonenfant, Jasmine Caldwell, Danine Schell, Joseph W. Forbeck, Jonathan Andujar, Laura Fuller, Erica Erickson, Michael Lee, Sallie Walker and Kala Roquemore. 8 p.m. Fridays through Sundays at 128 N. Nevada St., Colorado Springs, 719-357-8321 or theatre ‘d art’s home page. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.org. Thanks Brian Mann, Amanda Beehler and Cecil Harrison.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 49 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0529

The view from the inside out.

 

DSC_0659
Nevada Street welcomes theatergoers on a wind-swept night in Colorado Springs.

 

DSC_0531

The Theatre ‘d Art lobby features walls of chalkboard art.

 

 

DSC_0525

The “Marisol” set includes burned clouds hanging charred from a war-ravaged heaven.

 

DSC_0546

The Earth is in disarray, as a trail of flowers leading into a garbage can attest.

 

DSC_0610

The cast begins to gather in the green room backstage.

 

DSC_0563
Director Anna Faye Hunter, photographed through burning clouds, tends to last-minute staging details.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of photos from our night at “Marisol.”)

Outtakes: My night at UC-CS’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”

PROLOGUEWATERMARK
Sunday’s performance was preceded by a theater conversation between Kevin Landis, left; legendary Public Theatre producer Oskar Eustis, who brought “Bloody” to Broadway in 2010; and “Bloody” composer Michael Friedman. Watch for the video podcast to come.

 

By John Moore
March 20, 2013

Opening No. 46, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”: Students at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs learned that direct democracy, directly applied, is, like … totes lame(!) in their staging of this inventive, frontier emo-rock musical about the founder of the Democratic Party. It presents America’s seventh president as a modern-day, skinny-jeans rock star who stumbles into populism, Indian removal and tremendous power. Starring Omid Dastán Harrison and featuring Jessica Parnello, Lynne Hastings, Robbie Armstrong, Doug Wolfe, Zach Bailey, Alex Williams, Erik Brevik, Jeff Mills, Dana Kjeldsen, Chloe Kiskiras and Jen Cortes. Directed by Kevin Landis with Solveig Olsen. Remaining performances 7:30 p.m. March 20-23; 2 p.m. March 23 and 4 p.m. March 24. At the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, corner of Union and Austin Bluffs Parkway on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus, 719-255-3232 or theatreworks’ home page . All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.org. Thanks Emilie P. Green, Caitlin Green, Murray Ross and Drew Martorella.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 48 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0411
Sunday’s performance was attended by the legendary Public Theatre producer Oskar Eustis, who brought “Bloody” to Broadway in 2010, and composer Michael Friedman.

 

OPENING 46
Omid Dastán Harrison prepares for an afternoon on the wild frontier as land expansionist-turned-emo-rock-star Andrew Jackson, known by some as just, “America’s Hitler.”

 

DSC_0450
The entire lobby of the Bon Vivant Theatre has been turned into a carnival-slash-state-fair-concert kind of setting.

 

DSC_0453
Test your strength … against Andrew Jackson’s crabby corrupt cabinet.

 

DSC_0455

 
 

DSC_0491
Here’s a fun carny game: Guess which blanket provided to Native Americans by the U.S. military is NOT infested with smallpox??

 

DSC_0413
Fun historical facts about James Monroe … AND Metamucil!

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of photos from our night at “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

Outtakes: My night at the grand re-opening of The Edge Theatre

DSC_0412
The Edge Theatre’s new storefront  at 1560 Teller St. in Lakewood. The grand re-opening was marked on March 15 with a party and the opening performance of David Mamet’s “Race.”

 

By John Moore
March 20, 2013

Opening No. 45, “Race”: The Edge Theatre has moved 2 miles east, into a new, 99-seat theater in a freestanding storefront at 1560 Teller St. in Lakewood. Among Friday’s guests for the grand re-opening were Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy and acclaimed singer and actor Mary Louise Lee, also known as Denver’s First Lady. The ribbon-cutting was followed by the opening performance of David Mamet’s latest provocation, “Race,” a play about a pair of lawyers trying to decide whether to take the case of a rich white man accused of raping a black woman. The story bears a striking resemblance to Mamet’s earlier incendiary drama, “Oleanna.” Directed by Robert Kramer. The cast includes Richard Cowden, Joseph Graves, Brian Landis Folkins and Krisangela Washington. Through April 7. 303-232-0363 or the edge’s home page. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.org. Thanks to Patty Yaconis, Rick Yaconis and Justyn Walker of The Edge Theatre, and Amira Watters of The West Chamber.

Read our full news report on the Edge Theatre’s move.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 47 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0460
Here’s your Grand re-opening souvenir ticket.

 

DSC_0436
Re-opening-night guests signed the red ribbon that was later cut by founder Rick Yaconis.

 

DSC_0440
Final preparations were underway before the party began. The new Edge Theatre looks a lot like the old one, with seating on two sides of an intimate playing space. But all the amenities are better, including bathrooms in the front of the theater, not the back.

 

DSC_0425
Backstage during the pre-show party, Krisangela Washington and Joseph Graves were running lines. Graves was a late replacement for another actor and had only about 10 days to rehearse with director Robert Kramer and the cast.

 

DSC_0442
The party made plenty of libations available … so keep your hands off the Mountain Dew!

 

DSC_0559
How cool is it that acclaimed singer and actor Mary Louise Lee, also Denver’s First Lady, showed up with friend Sharon Johnson to watch the opening performance of “Race”? Lee appeared in Afterthought Theatre’s “The Wiz” last summer with “Race” cast member Joseph Graves.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of photos from our night at the grand re-opening of The Edge Theatre)

Magic Moments’ rotund roster includes some big-name local actors

DSC_0510
It is not uncommon for more than 200 people to participate in the annual Magic Moments pop-rock revue. This year’s crew includes some established names in the local theater community, including Amy Board, Sarah Rex, Ronni Gallup, Keegan Flaugh, Mark Shonsey, Dana Hart Lubeck, Donna Debreceni, David Nehls and others.

 

By John Moore
March 19, 2013

For 30 years, Magic Moments has presented an annual pop-music revue that integrates disabled and able-bodied cast members of all abilities, ages and experience levels. Those revues have now raised more than $200,000 for organizations that provide services for people with special needs.

The cast is made up of nearly 200 performers — and that is actually (and intentionally) down from an all-time high of about 250 a few years ago. But while Magic Moments is no longer an all-comers affair, it certainly remains open to most. It integrates a whole fleet of single-digit-aged moppets alongside some of the most respected members of the local acting community, as well as dozens of people with a wide variety of physical and mental challenges. Some of them might be detectable to the outside eye; others are quadriplegics. The belief at Magic Moments is that as long as you can move your eyes, you can act. And sing. And dance. That’s right — a team of up to eight choreographers make sure every cast member is included in at least four big group numbers, and here a wheelchair is no detriment to dancing. It is rather the tool that allows dancing to happen.

The rewards of participating in, or just attending, this completely singular theatrical experience, are both evident and manifest. But with a cast that is so varied and so large, it has been difficult for Magic Moments to find its place within the context of the larger Colorado theater community.

Magic Moments has much in common with the nationally recognized Phamaly Theatre Company, a troupe of all “differently abled” actors who present year-round musicals, dramas, stand-up comedy and, starting this year, a holiday offering. The companies share some of the same actors. Molly Nash has a big solo in this year’s Magic Moments revue, the Broadway showtune, “I’m Shy!” Phamaly audiences will again recognize longtime Phamaly favorite Ed Reinhardt and others.

But Magic Moments is different in at least two significant ways: Phamaly primarily presents known titles such as “The Elephant Man” and the upcoming summer musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.” The madman behind Magic Moments, who goes only by the name of K.Q., goes to great pains each year to thread the dozens of rock, pop and Broadway songs together with an original and recognizable narrative, some recurring characters and an occasionally discernible plot. This is the first year Magic Moments is reprising a title from the past. It is bringing back “Spirit and Soul,” which is set within the context of a traveling revival show where a terrible series of events tests the faith of all involved.

The score is always subject to tinkering and modernization. This year’s production features songs from “Spring Awakening,” “The Wiz,” “Evita” and rock artists Queen, Kenny Loggins, The Call, Bare Naked Ladies, The Who and Lyle Lovett. There is even a number by recent Grammy darlings fun. (yep, lower-case and period included). A few years ago, the indie-cool Decemberists made it into the show.

But the big difference between Phamaly and Magic Moments is that you see the able-bodied performing right alongside those who are not. And while Phamaly prides itself on producing some of the best theater by any company of any skill level, Magic Moments is peppered with housewives and middle-aged parents who have no greater theatrical ambitions than these. They just want to perform on the same stage with their kids. What really makes Magic Moments … well, magic, is what happens when you immerse all of these disparate people into a common creative cause over many months. That can’t help but change the lives of all involved. That’s what makes it, in my book, among the most legitimate theatrical experiences you can have on any stage … or from any seat.

Any while Magic Moments has battled against the “snob” factor for decades — “Is it real theater or not?” — it will be tough to argue against the many well-known and highly regarded actors from the “legit” theater community who are performing this year: We’re talking Amy Board, Sarah Rex, Ronni Gallup, Keegan Flaugh, Mark Shonsey, Ken Paul and Keith Hershman. This year’s musical directors are award-winning Donna Debreceni and Arvada Center hot-shot David Nehls. There isn’t a theater company in Colorado that wouldn’t take that group.

If you don’t know who those people are, no matter. You will after you see “Spirit and Soul.”

Spirit and Soul” ticket information:
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday (March 21 and 22); 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday (March 23); 2 p.m. Sunday (March 24) 
At the Anschutz Family Theatre at Kent Denver School, 4000 E. Quincy Ave., Englewood, 303-607-7555 or buy tickets here.

Some of my previous Magic Moments coverage:

My Magic Moments video podcast from 2011

2010: Magic Moments pays actors in a different kind of currency
2009: Wheelchair dancers ready for some rockin’ and rollin’
2008: Magic Moments is a stage for all

Photos from my visit to Saturday’s “Spirit and Soul” rehearsal:
DSC_0503
The mysterious director known only as K.Q. commands respect by wielding a soft … teddy bear.

 

DSC_0446
Sarah Rex (Arvada Center’s “Legally Blonde”) is one of the many respected actors in the Colorado theater community lending their services to Magic Moments’ annual fundraising revue.

 

DSC_0438
Amy Board, who won a Denver Post Ovation Award for her work in the Arvada Center’s “Les Miserables” as Eponine, was last seen starring in the Aurora Fox’s “Xanadu.” She plays a cancer patient in “Spirit and Soul.”

DSC_0517
For years, Ronni Gallup has both choreographed numbers for Magic Moments shows (along with her mother, Debbie Stark), and also provided sign-language interpretation at performances through her company, Hands on Productions. She played Lola in “Damn Yankees” and Nickie in “Sweet Charity” for the Town Hall Arts Center. But this year marks her first performance in a Magic Moments revue. She wanted to play alongside her two young sons.

 

(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of photos from this year’s Magic Moments rehearsal)

Outtakes: My night at the Local Lab New Play Festival in Boulder

DSC_0539
From left: Meridith Crosley Grundei, Lorenzo Gonzalez, Pun Bandhu, Rachel Fowler, George A. Keller and Belita Moreno read from Deborah Zoe Laufer’s Informed Consent.”

 

By John Moore
March 19, 2013

Opening No. 44, Local Lab New Play Festival: The Local Lab is an annual weekend of three new American play readings at the picturesque Chautauqua Community House in Boulder. I was happy to lead a spirited post-show discussion after Saturday’s offering, “Informed Consent,” along with visiting playwright Debrorah Zoe Laufer, who also wrote Curious Theatre’s 2008 staging of “End Days.”

Friday’s festival offering was Kate Tarker’s Ovidian “An Almanac For Farmers And Lovers In Mexico.” A young American woman named Flora is days away from marrying her Mexican fiancé in San Cristobal. Unfortunately, her fiance has turned into a bird. Arriving wedding guests find themselves undergoing unexpected transformations of their own. Directed by Pesha Rudnick. Featuring Anthony Bianco (Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers”), Meridith Crosley Grundei (The Catamounts’ “Messenger #1”), Laura Norman (Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Ghost-Writer”), Jamie Ann Romero (Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Romeo and Juliet”), Jake Walker (Denver Center Theatre Company’s “When We Are Married”), Gabriella Cavallero (founder of Modern Muse) and visiting New York actors Lorenzo Gonzalez and Belita Moreno.

Saturday’s festival offering was Laufer’s “Informed Consent.” It’s based on a complaint by the Havasupai Indians that a geneticist from Arizona State University ran DNA tests on tribal members without fully disclosing how the DNA would be used. In the play, a well-intentioned woman eager to unlock genetic clues that may cure Alzheimer’s and other diseases is accused of steamrolling a people’s culture in the process. Knowledge is power – but is that always a good thing? Directed by Mare Trevathan. Featuring Rachel Fowler (Curious’ “Rabbit Hole”), Pun Bandhu (Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Catch”), Lorenzo Gonzalez, Belita Moreno, Meridith Crosley Grundei and visiting Minneapolis actor George A. Keller.

Sunday’s festival offering was “Concealed Carry,” by Joshua Rollins. After seven students die in a shooting, a college in Colorado becomes ground zero for the concealed carry debate. Directed by Christy Montour-Larson. Featuring Pun Bandhu, Anthony Bianco, George A. Keller, Laura Norman, Jamie Ann Romero, Mare Trevathan and Jake Walker.

For more information on Local Theatre Company, click here

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 46 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

DSC_0524
The view of Boulder from Chautauqua Park, location of the festival, at the base of the Flatirons.

 

DSC_0526
Just outside the Chautauqua Community House in Boulder’s Chautauqua Park.

 

DSC_0527
The Chautauqua Community House.

 

DSC_0531
Local Theatre Company artistic director Pesha Rudnick introduces the Saturday night offering, Deborah Zoe Laufer’s “Informed Consent.”

 

DSC_0537
Actors Anne Sandoe, center, and Jake Walker watch intently from the balcony of the Chautauqua Community House as Deborah Zoe Laufer’s “Informed Consent” is read. Walker participated in the festival’s other two readings.

 

DSC_0545
Pun Bandhu, who read from Deborah Zoe Laufer’s “Informed Consent,” is known to Denver Center Theatre Company audiences for “The Catch.” Not as many realize he was also one of the original producers of the Broadway musical, “Spring Awakening.”

 

DSC_0544
Festival actors Laura Norman and Jake Walker are joined by Sylvia Gregory, right, who runs the company that cast the entire Local Lab fest.

Video, photos: Elin Palmer and Joshua Novak at the Walnut Room

Video of Elin Palmer at the Walnut Room on March 14, 2013.

 

By John Moore
March 15, 2013

The handful of sagacious local-music aficionados who are not in Austin for South by Southwest were treated last night to sets by two of Denver’s most admired and crushworthy artists, Elin Palmer and Joshua Novak, at the Walnut Room in RiNo.

DSC_0495

The Swedish-born Palmer, perhaps best known for her years among the alluring ensemble of Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, has returned to Denver to take her long overdue place in front and center. Wielding a lilting nyckelharpa (think of a fiddle with keys), the headlining Palmer has now stepped fully from the shadows of 16 Horsepower, The Czars, Wovenhand, M. Ward, The Fray and Eric Bachmann (all of whom she has played with before) to present her own signature sound, one that is infused with multiple stringed instruments and her own Scandinavian roots. Check out the (cheap iPhone) video from last night’s performance at the top of the page.

Sporting red pants that no black-and-white photos can do justice, Novak introduced “Ephemeron,” the ambitious follow-up to his debut album, “Dead Letters.”

” ‘Ephemeron’ is a nod to things that are short-lived — youth, lovers, jobs, lives, memories, health, careers,” Novak says. “But while the songs are about things that fade away and end up in the past, the music that frames these themes should be occasionally unfamiliar, less organic and from somewhere in the future.”

The opening band was Starcar Sunday. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. All rights reserved.

Enjoy!

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0493

 

DSC_0492

 

DSC_0487

 

DSC_0419

 

DSC_0472

 

DSC_0418

 

DSC_0022

 

(Please click “Page 2” to see more photos of Elin Palmer, Joshua Novak and Starcar Sunday.

Outtakes: My night at Lakewood High School’s ‘Les Misérables’

OPENING 42
Connor Kingsley, center, who plays Marius, gathers the cast in the hallway outside the school auditorium to salute director Tami LoSasso after an ambitious opening performance of “Les Misérables” on March 13.

 

By John Moore, March 14, 2013

My ongoing, 2013 labor-of-love photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theater,” brings you one intimate, iconic snapshot from 42 Colorado opening nights (and counting). But I also like to post outtakes offering more of a behind-the-scenes look at each stop.

Opening No. 42, Lakewood High School’s “Les Misérables”: Remaining performances at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (March 14-16) at 9700 W. 8th Avenue in Lakewood. 303-982-7123 or go to www.SeatYourself.Com. Featuring Graeme Schulz, Hunter Benjamin, Beky Winkler, Brooklyn Webb, Annie High, Connor Kingsley, Samantha Steele, Riley Konsella, Peter LoSasso, Melissa Elliot, Gabriel Branson, Bonnie Evans and a cast and crew of 150.

Click here to see the complete and official “Opening Nights” photo series.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0440
The opening performance was interrupted by a fire alarm that went off because of all of the smoke used in the climactic battle scenes. The school pays a four-figure fee to the local fire department to have the alarms put on silent during performances, but that didn’t stop an alarm from causing about a 10-minute delay on Wednesday.

 

DSC_0451

 

DSC_0461
Curtain call for the cast of about 40.

 

DSC_0470
Senior Graeme Schulz, who plays Valjean, is also president of the Lakewood High School Theatre Company.

 

DSC_0506

 

DSC_0499
Riley Konsella (above) and Samantha Steele (below) play a naughty Mr. and Madame Thenardier.

 

DSC_0501

 

DSC_0495

 

 

DSC_0464

 Ensemble cast member Dan Taylor, right.

 

DSC_0452

The view from where the student musicians crawl into the orchestra pit, literally!

 

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 42 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

Photos: My day at ‘Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse’

DSC_0579
Stage manager Emily MacIntyre has no defense for Brian Landis Folkins’ whiskery charms before Sunday’s first public performance of the Denver Children’s Theatre’s “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center.

 

By John Moore
March 13, 2013

Opening No. 41, “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”: “Lilly” is back for a second staging by the Denver Children’s Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center. Missy Moore is now taking on the role of the excitable mouse who stands up to bullies, can’t focus in class and is none too pleased about a new arrival in her home. Through April 28 at the Mizel’s Wolf Theatre, 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-316-6360 or www.maccjcc.org. Public performances: 1 p.m. Sundays (but not March 31 or April 14). Directed by Billie McBride. Also featuring Michael Bouchard, Brian Landis Folkins, Devon James and Misha Johnson. Masks by Todd Debreceni. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks to Emily MacIntyre, Steve Wilson, Tom Kobes, cast and crew.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 42 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0491
The Wolf Theatre underwent a massive renovation last year at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center.
DSC_0576
Missy Moore as the mouse that roars when she doesn’t get her way.

 

OPENING 41
Chester the mouse learns a fine lesson in courage from Lilly and all, but, Ryan Wuestewald seems to be asking, “Why doesn’t anyone ever stage ‘Chester’s Way?’ – which is only funny if you know that was another chapter in Kevin Henkes’ series of popular children’s books.

 

DSC_0509
Misha Johnson is a proud new momma mouse.

 

DSC_0537
Michael Bouchard is quiet as a church mouse sneaking up on a juggling Brian Landis Folkins during Sunday’s pre-show sound check.

 

DSC_0586
Devon James plays Lilly’s pretty, and pretty snotty, cousin Garland, among other roles.

 

DSC_0598
Shoes are just one component of Linda Morken’s fully homemade costume repertoire.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of photos from our night at “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.”)

Photos: My night at the Galleria’s ‘The Doyle & Debbie Show’

DSC_0573

 

By John Moore
March 13, 2013

Opening No. 39, “The Doyle & Debbie Show”: The latest cabaret show to move into the Garner-Galleria is this simultaneous homage to, and parody of, country music’s iconic duos. Doyle Mayfield, an old-guard country star with a handful of old-school hits, is reviving his career — 30 years, four wives and three “Debbies” later. His newest co-star is a single mother with three children who sees this lovable lothario as her last chance to make it big in Nashville. It has been announced that this show will close three weeks earlier than originally scheduled, on June 23, at the Garner-Galleria Theatre, in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets. These photos feature Bruce Arntson, Jennifer Blood and Matthew Carlton, though Denver actor Lauren Shealy has since assumed the role of Debbie. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. 303-893-4100 or www.DenverCenter.Org. All photos by John Moore for CultureWest.Org. Thanks to Heidi Bosk, Kimberly Payetta, Jennifer C. Schmitz, John Ekeberg, cast and crew.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 41 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0410

 

OPENING 39

Creator and star Bruce Arntson, left, goes through opening-night sound check with co-star Jennifer Blood.

 

DSC_0467
The show opened in Nashville’s legendary Bluegrass venue, The Station Inn, in October 2007, where it played Tuesday nights for more than six years.

 

DSC_0496
Yes, this is a black-and-white photo series. But some shots you just have to show in color.

 

DSC_0525
Jennifer Blood, visiting from New York via Chicago, prepares for her first performance as Debbie in front of a Denver audience.

 

DSC_0536
Jennifer Blood and Bruce Arntson go through their first of many, many Denver sound checks to come.

 

DSC_0477
Every inch of the Garner-Galleria Theatre has been transformed into a honkytonk by scenic designer Kevin Depinet, complete with neon signs, banners, memorabilia … and a stuffed squirrel to keep a moribund eye on the lobby bartender. Photos that line the barposts are said to feature longtime Denver Center actors and employees … at their most redneck. I’m not telling tales, but the name “Shannan Steele” came up during a tour.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of photos from our night at “The Doyle & Debbie Show.”)

Photos and video podcast: Re-opening of Equinox’s ‘Bat Boy, the Musical’

Here’s our video podcast reporting from the “re-opening” of “Bat Boy, the Musical” on March 8, 2013.

 

By John Moore
March 5, 2013

Opening No. 38, “Bat Boy, the Musical”: Let’s call this one a “re-opening.” On Feb. 20, after a sold-out opening weekend at the Bug Theatre, the cast and crew of the Equinox Theatre Company’s “Bat Boy” learned that their star, Adam Perkes, had died in a Glenwood Springs hotel room. Within 10 days of this devastating turn of events, and with the blessing of Adams family, “Bat Boy” re-opened on March 8 after award-winning actor Nick Sugar agreed to step in and “fill in,” allowing the show to go on.  Remaining performances at 7:30 p.m. March 15 and 16 at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinoxtheatredenver.com. Also featuring Emily Macomber, James O’Hagan-Murphy, Rachelle Wood, Tom Auclair, Devin Bustamante, Tim Campbell, Lauren Cora Marsh, Abby McInerney, James Crapes, Dylan Phibbs, Arthur Pierce, Alex Ambard, Chelsea Winslow, Savannah Lake and Linda Swanson Brown. Photo by John Moore for CultureWest.Org. Thanks to Deb Flomberg, Colin Roybal, Ryan Mattingly, Alex Weimer, cast and crew. Read more on the story here.

Here’s our story on the death of Adam Perkes
Here’s our story on the company’s decision to re-open the show with Nick Sugar
Here’s our video podcast visiting the re-opening night of “Bat Boy”

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 39 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0559
The rest of the “Bat Boy” run has been dedicated to late actor Adam Perkes.

 

DSC_0458
Nick Sugar describes himself as Adam Perkes’ “fill-in.” Here, he is shown having his Bat Boy make-up and prosthetics applied by Evan Cannon amid the chaos of the cramped Bug Theatre backstage.

 

DSC_0444

 

 

DSC_0446
Busted: I caught actor James O’Hagan-Murphy putting water — water! — in drunk vet Dr. Parker’s flask. There are no method actors anymore.

 

DSC_0473
Rachelle Wood prepares to go on as Shelley Parker.

 

DSC_0481
The scene from the stage as the cast gathers for warm-up exercises.

 

OPENING 38
There are higher-quality images from my evening with the Equinox crew, but none that better capture the love and camaraderie that was evident in the moments before the first audience was let into the Bug Theatre since their original Bat Boy, Adams Perkes, passed away.

 

DSC_0505

 Director Colin Roybal.

 

DSC_0519
Devin Bustamante, Abby McInerney and Lauren Cora Marsh.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of photos from our night with “Bat Boy, the Musical.”)

Photo series: My night at Silhouette’s ‘This is How it Goes’

DSC_0250
It’s the job of stage manager Amy Brosius to convert the John Hand Theatre stage from the Spotlight Theatre’s afternoon performance of “The Front Page” to the evening playing of Silhouette Theatre’s “This is How it Goes.” The companies share resources and like-mindedness with the Firehouse Theatre. Paul Jaquith’s Silhouette troupe gravitates more toward the nastier aspects of human nature.

 

By John Moore
March 5, 2013

Opening No. 36: Neil LaBute’s play explores the repercussions of an interracial love triangle in small-town America. Directed by Pat Payne. Featuring Paul Jaquith, Johanna Jaquith, Ben Butler and Taylor Black. Playing through March 30 at 7653 E. First Place, at unusual times: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays (no performance March 21); 2 p.m. Saturdays; 6:30 p.m. Sundays; also 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 11. 303-999-9143 or www.SilhouetteTheatreCompany.Org. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks to Amy Brosius, Bonnie Greene, Helen Hand, cast and crew.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 37 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0256
First, a look at some remnants from “The Front Page” set. That’s the famous newspaper comedy about ace reporter Hildy Johnson, who wants to break away from journalism, go on his honeymoon and land a respectable job. But on his way out of town, there is a jailbreak, and one final scoop falls into his lap.Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays (720-880-8727).

 

DSC_0252
The newspapers on the “Front Page” set are from Englewood in the mid-1960s.

 

OPENING 36
Stage manager Amy Brosius’ goal is to store all remnants of the Spotlight Theatre’s “The Front Page” far enough upstage so that they can be covered by several large black curtains. Silhouette Theatre’s “This is How it Goes” takes place entirely in front of the curtains.

 

DSC_0330
John Hand, founder of the Colorado Free University who started the Firehouse Theatre Company on the former Lowry military base, was murdered in 2004. By preserving his legacy, his friends and family have provided a home for at least three small local theater companies.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of photos from our night at “This is How it Goes.”)

Breaking: Denver Center Theatre Company’s 2013-14 season an alchemy of the very old and very new

Scott Ferrara as Hamlet in the Denver Center Theatre Company's 2001-02 production.

Scott Ferrara as Hamlet in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s 2001-02 production.


By John Moore
March 6, 2013

The Denver Center Theatre Company has just announced a 10-play season including four world premieres selected from the just-completed 2013 Colorado New Play Summit:

*Karen Zacarías’ adaptation of Helen Thorpe’s book “Just Like Us”
*Catherine Trieschmann’s comedy “The Most Deserving”
*Matthew Lopez’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride”
*Marcus Gardley’s adaptation of Homer’s epic poem, “Black Odyssey”

Also selected were the 1949 Arthur Miller drama “Death of a Salesman,” an adaptation of the Marx Brothers’ “Animal Crackers,” Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and the return of the Christmas classic, “A Christmas Carol” (though it will not be included on the subscription season).

The season is truly a stark divide between the old and new; the familiar and the unfamiliar. Oft-produced titles like William Nicholson’s “Shadowlands,” Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and the perennial “A Christmas Carol” would make a case for conservatism; but everything else on the season argues against that. “Animal Crackers” is at once a little of both.

The latest lineup makes plain that the Denver Center Theatre Company has little interest anymore in bringing to Denver what’s new from New York. The season again cedes the most-talked about plays from Broadway to companies like Curious and TheatreWorks, as it goes about cementing its reputation as a company that produces its own new work.

“We had such compelling and imaginative writing at this year’s Colorado New Play Summit that could not be overlooked,” artistic director Kent Thompson said in a statement. “Our selections this year are wide-ranging and diverse, and I think will bring excitement to our patrons’ experience at the theater.”

The DCTC last staged “Hamlet” in the 2001-02 season.

It’ll be interesting to see what Denver native Steven Dietz’s “Jackie & Me” turns out to be all about, given that he also wrote the oft-produced play for teens, “Honus & Me.” By the season description, it sounds like “Jackie & Me” is pretty much the same play (or perhaps an updated version of it), only the baseball card that prompts the story now is that of Jackie Robinson rather than Honus Wagner. We shall see.

The season at a glance:
Descriptions provided by the Denver Center:

“Death of a Salesman”
By Arthur Miller
Sept 26-Oct 20, 2013
Space Theatre
Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama Death of a Salesman tells the story of Willy Loman, a downsized salesman whose dreams of greatness for himself and his sons go unrealized. An authentic and heartbreaking portrayal of the American dream lost, this play is woven into the fabric of our country’s consciousness.

“Just Like Us”
By Karen Zacarías, based on the book by Helen Thorpe
Oct 10-Nov 3
Stage Theatre
Based on Helen Thorpe’s bestselling book, this documentary-style play follows four Latina girls in Denver — two of whom are documented and two who are not — through young adulthood. Their close-knit friendships begin to unravel when immigration status dictates the girls’ opportunities, or lack thereof. When a political firestorm arises, each girl’s legal status becomes increasingly desperate. “Just Like Us” poses difficult, yet essential questions such as what makes an American?

“The Most Deserving”
A Denver Center commission
By Catherine Trieschmann
Oct. 17-Nov. 17
Ricketson Theatre
Tasked with awarding $20,000 to a deserving and needy local artist who “demonstrates an under-represented American voice,” a small town arts council in Ellis County, Kansas, comically erupts into chaos. Should the award go to a high school teacher/painter 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.

“Jackie & Me*
By Steven Dietz
Based on the book by Dan Gutman
Nov 21-Dec 22
Space Theatre
A rare baseball card is young Joey Stoshack’s ticket back in time, where he meets Jackie Robinson on the very day he is signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Thrust into a racial pressure-cooker, Joey learns about courage and grace from one of America’s legends. Exciting and emotional, Jackie & Me, based on the popular youth novel, will warm hearts of all ages and emphasizes the importance of role models for adolescents.

“A Christmas Carol”
By Charles Dickens
Adapted by Richard Hellesen
Music by David de Berry
Dec. 5-29, 2013
Stage Theatre
Denver’s holiday tradition returns. Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, this joyous and opulent musical adaptation traces Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season and is a beloved tradition for many families. This is an added attraction, not part of the subscription season.

“The Legend of Georgia McBride”
By Matthew Lopez
Jan. 16-Feb. 23
Ricketson Theatre
When a struggling Florida dive-bar changes its image, Casey, the headlining Elvis impersonator, finds himself unemployed, broke and with a baby on the way. When the bar owner brings in a B-level drag show to replace his act, Casey finds that he has a 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 and bawdy comedy with a great big heart and music to spare.

“Black Odyssey”
A Denver Center commission
By Marcus Gardley
Jan. 23-Feb. 16
Space Theatre
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.

“Hamlet”
By William Shakespeare
Jan. 30-Feb. 23
Stage Theatre
Hamlet descends into mental unrest as the desire to avenge his father’s suspicious death causes him to contemplate action, inaction and the meaning of life itself. Proclaimed the “greatest play in the English language,” William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a symphony of revenge, deceit and moral corruption.

“Shadowlands”
By William Nicholson
March 28-April 27, 2014
Space Theatre
Professor and writer C.S. Lewis led a life of bachelorhood into middle age. It is only when he starts an unlikely friendship with American fan Joy Davidman that his life becomes enriched by romance. When she is diagnosed cancer, Lewis experiences a crisis of faith that betrays his life’s dedication to Christian thought and theology. Shadowlands is a reminder to us all that great loss cannot exist without great love.

“Animal Crackers”
By George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind
Music and Lyrics by Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby
Adapted by Henry Wishcamper
April 10-May 11
Stage Theatre
This boisterous and knockabout comedy begins when a valuable painting goes missing at a society dinner party and chaos ensues. A Marx Brothers stage classic, Animal Crackers is stocked with physical comedy and one-liners sure to have audiences rolling in the aisles.

Tickets and subscriptions:
New and renewing subscribers may reserve season tickets starting March 18 online at denvercenter.org/subs or by calling 303-893-6030 or 303-893-4100. Single ticket on-sale dates will be announced at a later time.

Note: Plans for the new season are subject to change.

Photo series: My night at the Catamounts’ ‘Jon’

DSC_0002

 

By John Moore
March 5, 2013

Opening No. 35: The Catamounts’ “Jon” is a Vonnegut-like, possibly futuristic (possibly not) allegory based on a New Yorker short story written by a one-time engineering student from the Colorado School of Mines named George Saunders. In it, trendy youth are raised from birth to serve as perpetual pop-culture taste-setters for all-powerful advertising companies. But while the story is a ruthless chaffing of American consumerism, the outside world ain’t exactly the promised land, either. Pushing the boundaries of video and live theater, this surreal and strangely moving coming-of-age story explores the consequences when you interject real human emotions into an otherwise completely controlled living environment. We visited the final preview performance – and first in front of an audience – on Friday, March 1. Plays through March 16 at the Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St, Boulder. 303-444-7328 or purchase tickets here. Directed by Amanda Berg Wilson. Adapted for the stage by Seth Bockley. Featuring Joe Von Bokern, Ryan Wuestewald, Tyler Compton, Sonia Justl, Jason Maxwell, Michelle Hurtubise, Miriam Tobin, Verl Hite and RJ Wagner. Thanks to Corey Crowley, Sara McPherson Horle, cast and crew.


Read the New Yorker story upon which the stage adaptation of “Jon” is based.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 36 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0039
Ryan Wuestewald and Sonia Justl play Carolyn and Jon, two teenagers who experience the first throes of pubescent lust while living in a controlled corporate universe where TV commercials replace real-life experiences.

 

DSC_0081
Director Amanda Berg Wilson has notes for her cast from a final run-through before the awaiting first audience is let in.

 

DSC_0051
Director Amanda Berg Wilson talks to the crew in the light booth behind her (above) and to the full cast in front of her (below).

 

DSC_0074

 

 

OPENING 35
The (unstaged!) photo above captures actors, from left, Joe Von Bokern, Ryan Wuestewald, Tyler Compton and Sonia Justl all at once gluing into place the neck ports that will allow their characters to “plug in” to a mind-soothing drug called Aurabon®. One of the I.V.-like ports, as they appear on-stage, is pictured below.

 

DSC_0079

 

 

DSC_0013
Michelle Hurtubise, emerging from her “privacy tarp,” plays a teen named Kimberly in a world where sexual curiosity is zipped up like Velcro. Make that by Velcro.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of photos from our night with “Jon.”)

Photo series: My night at the University of Denver’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

DSC_0252

Director Pamyla Stiehl laid out a table of candies and candles for her cast and crew to enjoy in a backstage hallway just before the opening performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” began at the University of Denver last Thursday.

 

By John Moore
Feb. 27, 2013

Opening No. 34: One of the many great things about the University of Denver’s theater program is how it pairs its students with an accomplished local actor, not only to help mentor them, but to star alongside them in a major production. This spring, multiple award-winning actor John Arp is starring as Tevye alongside 24 student actors in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Arp is a three-time winner of the Denver Post’s Ovation Award for best year by an actor, most recently in 2011. “Fiddler,” a co-production with DU’s Lamont School of Music, runs through March 10 in the Byron Theatre, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. (in the Newman Center). Tickets $15-$22. Photo by John Moore of www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks to Chris Wiger, Rick Barbour, Sarah Caulkins, Martha Yordy, cast and crew.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 36 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

DSC_0222
Blind student Sam Barasso, a familiar face to audiences who follow the local handicapped theater company called Phamaly, dances with enthusiasm in the dressing room moments before the opening performance begins. She plays Fruma-Sarah, the dead wife who (supposedly) comes to Tevye in his dreams to warn him against letting his oldest daughter marry her husband, the butcher. To pull it off, she is hoisted above another actor’s shoulders, making for a commanding onstage presence during a scene in which the actress’ blindness is irrelevant.

 

DSC_0137
Student actor Elliot Clough, who plays the butcher Lazar, has his mic pack checked on stage alongside stage manager Sarah Caulkins just before the opening audience is allowed inside.

 

DSC_0075
Pilates instructor Marcia Polas, back, takes the DU student actors through stretching warmups.

 

DSC_0066
Student actor George Arvidson, who plays the young revolutionary Perchik (husband of Hodel), stretches out before the show.

 

DSC_0068
Guest artist John Arp, who plays Tevye, is either telling me to get lost – or conducting some sort of diction-oriented linguistical warmup exercise.

 

DSC_0145
The call board where actors and crew sign in for work.

 

DSC_0081
The Chagall-inspired view from the minimalist set designed by the esteemed William Temple Davis is dominated by veritable stairways of askew chairs and window frames, climbing their way to heaven. Chairs make for a recurring theme throughout the story, what with brides and grooms being hoisted up upon them, and Russian soldiers upending and breaking them.

 

DSC_0085

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of photos.)

Photos: Shelly Bordas benefit performances raise money, lift hearts

The video above is Part 2 from my ongoing video documentary, “The Shelly Bordas Story.”

 

By John Moore
March 4, 2013

Back-to-back benefits for Shelly Bordas on Sunday and Monday nights brought grassroots fundraising efforts to help the cancer-stricken Denver mother, teacher and actor to nearly $30,000.

On Sunday, a concert organized by Mitch Samu was held at the Columbine United Church in Littleton. Some of the theater community’s most accomplished singers offered an evening of pop songs, Broadway tunes and spirituals. Featured performers included Joanie Brosseau, Sarah Rex, Megan Van De Hey, Thad Valdez, Ryan Belinak, Colin Hearn, Barry Brown, Kristen Samu and Tag Worley. The guest speaker was the church’s pastor, Steve Poos-Benson.

DSC_0458

On Monday, a benefit performance of the Broadway musical “9 to 5” was held at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center, where Bordas still teaches youth theater classes when she is up for it.

DSC_0422

Both events were “pay what you can.” Sunday’s event raised $1,500; Monday’s another $2,400.

Before Monday’s performance, Denver actor, director and photographer Sarah Roshan presented Bordas with a check for $15,000. That’s the first payout from a fundraising web site Roshan started on GoGetFunding.Com to help defray Bordas’ medical costs, and help establish a college trust for her son, Nathan, who turns 4 next month.

DSC_0352

Bordas has been battling breast cancer since 2009. In December 2012, she learned it has spread to her brain. Doctors have told her they cannot guarantee her a year, or even a week.

Bordas, who was hospitalized for five days last week with a blood infection, was able to attend the first half of Sunday’s benefit concert with her son, Nathan, and the first act of “9 to 5” the next night. At Monday’s benefit, Bordas expressed both her gratitude and embarrassment for all the love that has been flowing her way these past two months.

What got all of these fundraising efforts started was Bordas having to drop out of “9 to 5” to spend as much of her remaining time as possible with her son. She mentioned to the cast that her immediate goal was to take her son on a Disney cruise, “because I need to see that happen.” On Monday, she said she has booked a week-long Disney cruise to the Caribbean launching May 4 to celebrate Nathan’s 4th birthday. She will be accompanied by a team of family and care-givers, all made possible by the generosity of donors from the theater community and around the world.

To learn more about Shelly Bordas’ story, please take a look at my ongoing video documentary, “The Shelly Bordas Story”:

Part 1: “Tit for Tot”
Part 2: “My Son Wins” (embedded at the top of the page)
Part 3 will focus on how the community has responded to Bordas’ illness.

Here’s how fundraising efforts have broken down to date:
GoGet Funding.Com fundraising page: $17,520
Checks mailed to Town Hall Arts Center: $6,000
Benefit performances (including a night of improv at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse): $4,170
Contribution from the family of late actor Doug Rosen: $2,000

Dani Nelson Everson, a hair stylist who has never met Bordas, will host a cut-a-thon to benefit Bordas from 4-6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 8 at Clementine’s Denver, 2009 W. 33rd Ave. Phone: 720-328-3594.

Note: the coordinator of all Shelly Bordas fundraising efforts is Kelly Kates. Her email is kateshouse@earthlink.net

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

Photos, Part 1: Benefit performance of “9 to 5”:
All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.

DSC_0425
Denver actor Sue Leiser presents Bordas with a production photo signed by the Los Angeles cast of “9 to 5,” currently featuring Denver native and Broadway veteran Beth Malone. They also sent a check for $150 that Malone had collected from L.A. cast members.

 

DSC_0417
Part of the “9 to 5” cast backstage, from left: Taylor Young, Rebekah Ortiz, Norrell Moore, Matthew D. Peters, Rae Klapperich, Melissa Morris and Rob Rehburg.

 

DSC_0414
Shelly Bordas with “9 to 5” director, and old friend, Christopher Willard.

 

DSC_0409
“9 to 5” cast member Matthew D. Peters is having way too much fun with the many readily available costumes backstage at the Town Hall Arts Center.

 

DSC_0426
Sarah Roshan presents Shelly Bordas with a $15,000 check from her fundraising page at GoGetFunding.com

 

DSC_0431
Denver actor Lisa Young.

 

DSC_0435
Margie Lamb, who plays Violet in “9 to 5,” left, with Denver actor Carla Kaiser Kotrc, who attended college with Shelly Bordas at Western State in Gunnison.

(Please click below to go to the next page and see more photos from Sunday’s benefit concert at Columbine United Church.)

Video: The Shelly Bordas Story, Part 2: “My Son Wins”

By John Moore
March 2, 2013

In this ongoing video documentary, veteran journalist John Moore chronicles Denver actor and mother Shelly Bordas’ journey since being diagnosed – for a second time – with Stage 4 breast cancer that has now spread to her brain. In Part 2, Shelly is hospitalized, has her 15th surgery, and faces tough decisions about her place in the Town Hall Arts Center’s staging of the Broadway musical, “9 to 5.” Run time: 8 minutes.

Watch Part 1 of our Shelly Bordas video documentary:
Video: The Shelly Bordas Story, Part 1: “Tit for Tot”

How to help Shelly Bordas:
In the past three weeks, friends have raised more than $20,000 to help Shelly Bordas, and there is plenty of need for it. With the start of the new year, Bordas has a huge new annual health-insurance deductible to chip away at; she just started a demanding new round of chemo; and Bordas has been told she is rapidly approaching her “lifetime insurance payout cap” — meaning that, at some point this year, her insurance company will cut her off. To help defray her medical expenses, and to help establish a college trust for Bordas’ nearly 4-year-old son, Nathan, click here.

Information on other upcoming fundraising efforts:
*A pay-what-you-can benefit concert organized by Mitch Samu will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at Columbine United Church, 6375 S. Platte Canyon Road, Littleton. Featured performers will include Joanie Beyette, Sarah Rex, Megan Van De Hey, Thad Valdez, Ryan Belinak, Colin Hearn, Kristen Samu, Tag Worley, Barry Brown and guest speaker Dr. Steve Poos-Benson. Tickets at the door. Child-care available.

*A “pay what you can” performance of “9 to 5” will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 4, with all funds going to Bordas. Tickets at the door, 2450 W. Main St., Littleton.

*Dani Nelson Everson, a hair stylist who has never met Bordas, owns the Clementine’s Denver, where she will host a cut-a-thon to benefit Bordas, from 4-6:30 p.m. on March 8 at 2009 W. 33rd Ave. Phone: 720-328-3594.

Previous reporting on this story:
The initial CultureWest.Org news report on Shelly’s story

Photo series: Opening night of Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5”


The Bordas fund reaches $10,000 in first 24 hours

Shelly Bordas fundraising efforts hit $20,000 after first week


Kirk Montgomery’s “E-Block” report on Channel 9

Bonus coverage: Listen to my very funny “Running Lines” podcast episode with Shelly when she was appearing in Theatre Group’s 2006 production of “Debbie Does Dallas.” She played Lisa and was also the musical’s “cheerographer.”

Note: the coordinator of all Shelly Bordas fundraising efforts is Kelly Kates. Her email is kateshouse@earthlink.net

IMG_6064
Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

Photo series: “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theater”: To see my ongoing gallery featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from more than 30 opening nights (and counting), click here.