As others fold, Colorado Shakespeare Festival comes back strong

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Interim artistic director Timothy Orr addresses a sold-out opening-night crowd at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in July. Photo by John Moore.

By John Moore
Aug. 29, 2013

An ill wind has blown from North Carolina to California this month as two major Shakespearean festivals have announced they are either closing or suspending operations. But the latest sign of the apocalypse for Shakespeare festivals as an industry did not gust through Boulder.

Rather, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival posted an encouraging turnaround in the summer of 2013. Just-released figures show ticket sales reached 23,861, an increase of 10.3 percent over 2012, Philip Sneed’s final season as executive artistic director. That marks the company’s first year-to-year attendance increase in five years.

But in California, the venerable Shakespeare Santa Cruz just announced it will close at the end of the year with a cumulative debt that has risen this season from $1.5 million to $2 million. And the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, known as NC Shakes, has suspended operations in High Point through July 2014. Officials cited “extreme financial challenges” that include a $200,000 deficit from its most recent season. The two companies have 68 years between them.

According to the Institute of Outdoor Drama, the total number of outdoor Shakespeare festivals is down by more than 50 percent nationwide over the past 20 years, and that overall paid attendance has fallen more than 60 percent in that time.

“I think it’s a tragedy what is happening elsewhere,” said Colorado Shakes interim artistic director Timothy Orr. “That could have been us a couple of years ago. But we had a great summer.”

That should come as a relief to audiences who watched the 56-year-old Colorado Shakespeare Festival lose $1 million between 2007-09. The festival’s financial state has been precarious ever since.

Colorado Shakes is structured in much the same way as Shakespeare Santa Cruz: Both are mid-sized professional theater companies that operate on college campuses that also subsidize them. The University of Colorado’s College of Arts and Sciences contributes the use of its facilities and $135,000 to Colorado Shakes’ annual operating budget. Shakespeare Santa Cruz performed at the University of California-Santa Cruz, and got a $250,000 annual infusion from the school. Still, the theater company spent $500,000 more than it made this season.

Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director Kent Thompson ran the Alabama Shakespeare Festival for 16 years, and has directed at NCShakes. He thinks the latest news is not necessarily the death-knell for Shakespeare festivals. But as resources have continued to dwindle, “the margin for risk-taking has narrowed and narrowed and narrowed,” he said.

And the days of festivals living off the evaporating largess of universities “are probably numbered,” Thompson added. Colleges simply can’t afford them anymore. In Colorado, state budget cuts have slashed per-student spending by 50 percent over the past 10 years.

In February, Steven Leigh — dean of the University of Colorado’s College of Arts and Sciences, flatly stated that the Colorado Shakespeare Festival would have to change its mission to survive. “It has to contribute to our academic mission in order for us to spend money on it,” Leigh told the Boulder Weekly. And if it didn’t, he said then, “We may not be able to do it anymore.”

Colorado Shakes promoted Orr to the title of interim artistic director, which he will keep until a permanent replacement is named after the 2014 season — most likely someone from the world of academia, Leigh said.

Then came the summer, which happened to include two of Shakespeare’s most bankable titles: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Macbeth.” Orr thinks there were many other reasons for the bounce-back, including audiences responding to “the perception of danger that was in the air,” he said. But most of all, Orr believes, “audiences responded to really high-quality theater, combined with a very solid marketing strategy.”

Larry Hecht, Head of Acting at the Denver Center Academy, played a significant role in the Boulder bounce: He played Puck in “Midsummer,” among others. He thinks the biggest mistake at Shakespeare Santa Cruz (where he has performed) is one Boulder should learn from: Not taking full advantage of the natural assets surrounding the theater.

“Shakespeare Santa Cruz performed in what is considered to be one of the most beautiful regions in the country, if not the world,” said Hecht. “But they never fully grasped that they had this phenomenal natural resource with which to promote their work.”

His advice for Colorado Shakes: More regional tourism, and more integration with the university as a full presenting partner. He thinks CU’s music, dance and theater departments should be engaging audiences with live entertainment outside the theater and presenting special programs. Most of all, he believes Colorado Shakes needs to build loyal audiences outside of Boulder. “Very few audiences seem to come up from Denver,” said Hecht, which most everyone blames at least in part to the unending late-night construction on Highway 36.

“I just think there’s no need for it to seem so isolated,” he said. “A night at the festival should be fun and jolly for everyone.”

Video: “The Kid” Joey McIntyre takes on disgraced Yankees star Alex Rodriguez

By John Moore
Aug. 28, 2013

Joey McIntyre, The Kid from The New Kids on the Block, is a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan, so we had to ask him what he thought of the brouhaha when Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster beaned New York Yankees nemesis Alex Rodriguez with a pitch on Aug. 18. Dempster was suspended for five games. Rodriguez was only playing because he has appealed his unprecedented, 211-game suspension for steroid use.

Among a few other choice bits, McIntuyre calls Rodriguez “the worst of all Yankees,” who “sabotaged what he could have been,” yet gives the disgraced star props for coming back and hitting a home run in the Yankees’ win.

McIntyre is in Denver for a limited developmental run of his new bio-miusical, “The Kid,” written with Christine Boylan. “The Kid” plays Aug. 30 through Sept. 15 at the Garner-Galleria Theatre. For tickets, call 303-893-4100 or visit www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore. Running time: 2 minutes.

Direct link to the video

 

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New feature: Colorado theater schedules, however you like them:

All currently running theater productions

All theater listings by company
All theater listings by opening date

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Video: Denver native Nancy Gibbs: From T.J. High to Broadway

By John Moore
Aug. 28, 2013

Denver native Nancy Gibbs tells how she went from Thomas Jefferson High School to Broadway. Gibbs, producer of the Tony Award-winning “Peter and the Starcatcher,” playing in Denver through Sept. 1. She also produced “Bat Boy the Musical” and is the worldwide General Manager for all things “Wicked.” Her resume includes working in various capacities on “Fully Committed.” “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” and “The Vagina Monologues.” She told her story to members of the Denver Center staff in conjunction with the “Peter and the Starcatcher” national tour launch in Denver. “Peter” plays through Sept. 1. Tickets: 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” plays through Sept. 1. For information, please visit www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore. Running time: 6 minutes.

Direct link to the video

Click here to watch our fun video reporting from opening night of “Peter and the Starcatcher national tour launch in Denver.

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New feature: Colorado theater schedules, however you like them:

All currently running theater productions

All theater listings by company
All theater listings by opening date

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Video: Black Stache on Denver Tony Award-winner Gabe Ebert

By John Moore
Aug. 26, 2013

John Sanders, who plays the comic villain Black Stache in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” talks about Denver’s own Tony-winner Gabriel Ebert, his former co-star in Broadway’s “Matilda, the Musical.” “Everything I know I learned from Gabe Ebert,” Sanders says. Just not the ukulele.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” plays through Sept. 1. For information, please visit www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore. Running time: 2 minutes.

Direct link to the video

Click here to watch our video reporting from opening night of “Peter and the Starcatcher national tour launch in Denver.

 

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New feature: Colorado theater schedules, however you like them:

All currently running theater productions

All theater listings by company
All theater listings by opening date

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Video: Starstuff: Opening night of “Peter and the Starcatcher” in Denver

By John Moore
Aug. 25, 2013

On Aug. 21, Denver hosted the launch of the “Peter and the Starcatcher” national touring production at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, and CultureWest.Org was there to capture the “starstuff” of the evening.

Guests include actors Joey deBettencourt, Megan Stern and John Sanders; Denver TV host Eden Lane; Disney’s Jack Eldon; and “The Kid” director and producer Eli Gonda and Jason Shuman. “Peter” is the the story of the nameless boy who becomes Peter Pan. “The Kid” is the new Joey McIntyre developmental musical opening Aug. 30 at the Galleria Theatre. For information on “Peter” or “The Kid,” please visit www.denvercenter.org. Running time: 5 minutes.

Direct link to the video: http://youtu.be/x25AW2KL9jA

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Direct link to more photos: http://www.culturewest.org/?p=6953

It should be noted that as of Aug. 19: I am an honest-to-goddness employee ofthe Denver Center for the Performing Arts. I have been hired as Associate Director of Content Strategy, which just means I am bringing my 13-plus years of storytelling about the Colorado theater community to the Denver Center, and still throughout the state.

 

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New feature: Colorado theater schedules, however you like them:

All currently running theater productions

All theater listings by company
All theater listings by opening date

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Photos: Opening night of “Peter and the Starcatcher” national tour launch in Denver

To see caption information for any photo above, or to see the gallery if watching on a mobile phone, click here. (The information is posted on the lower-left corner of each photo.) Or just click the “show info” option on any photo.

By John Moore
Aug. 22, 2013

For the second straight year, Denver was chosen to host the launch of a major new national touring production. Last year: “The Book of Mormon.” This year: “Peter and the Starcatcher,” at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. This grown-up prequel to “Peter Pan” is a fun romp through the Neverland you never knew. A cast of 12 actors armed only with clever stagecraft and the limitless possibilities of imagination tell the quick-moving tale of the nameless boy who becomes Peter Pan. It is a mayhem-filled evening the New York Times hailed as “the most exhilarating storytelling on Broadway in decades.” The cast features Joey deBettencourt (Boy), Megan Stern (Molly), John Sanders (Black Stache), Harter Clingman (Alf), Jimonn Cole (Slank), Nathan Hosner (Lord Aster), Carl Howell (Prentiss), Ian Michael Stuart (Captain Scott), Benjamin Schrader (Mrs. Bumbrake), Luke Smith (Smee), Edward Tournier (Ted), Lee Zarrett (Fighting Prawn), Ben Beckley, Robert Franklin Neill, Rachel Prather and Nick Vidal. Directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers. Recommended for ages 10 and older. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s home page . All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the full “Opening Nights” photo series to date, click here.

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From left: John Sanders (Black Stache), Megan Stern (Molly) and Joey deBettencourt (Boy).

 

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Photos: Kids’ Night on Broadway, “Peter and the Starcatcher”

To see this photo gallery on a mobile phone, click here.

By John Moore
Aug. 21, 2013

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts hosted “Kids’ Night on Broadway” on Aug. 20, 2013, in conjunction with the launch of the national touring production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Kids ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, then were treated to a full array of family activities in the theater lobby, then met with four members of the cast before seeing the show: Nathan Hosner, Carl Howell, John Sanders and Ian Michael Stuart. “Peter and the Starcatcher” runs through Sept. 1 at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets. Information: 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org.

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Photos: Traci Kern Comes of Age

To see this photo gallery on a mobile phone, click here.

By John Moore
Aug. 16, 2013

Photos from Traci Kern’s birthday concert Aug. 12, 2013, at the Vintage Theatre.

She performed with Donna Debreceni on keyboards, Larry Ziehl on drums, Jason Tyler Vaughn on guitar, Scott Alan Smith on bass, and singers Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Ryan Belinak and Daniel Langhoff. Photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.

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New feature: Colorado theater schedules, however you like them:

All currently running theater productions

All theater listings by company
All theater listings by opening date

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Countdown to Closure: Original cast member on marrow and forgotten riots

DAY 11
Director Ed Baierlein made up a placard for every one of his expected 45-plus actors who were to perform in “Offending the Audience.” Kenny Burt, who joined Germinal in its first season, had to drop out for a transplant.

By John Moore
Aug. 15, 2013

One of the many interesting aspects of embedding myself in the final production that will ever be held Germinal Stage-Denver was the fact that among the 43 invited cast members, four were part of the original cast of 10 who performed “Offending the Audience” in 1976.

DAY 39One performance sparked a spontaneous rebellion among the audience that began when a handful of spectators began heckling the performers, then joined them onstage and even physically threatened them. Eventually, according to a Denver Post news report, “virtually all the audience was participating in the chaos.” The incident prompted director Ed Baierlein to call a press conference to address the media’s interest in the story. How unprecedented was the uproar? Well, when’s the last time you can remember a local theater company having to (or should we say “getting to?”) call a press conference over anything … And the media showing up?

This 2013 farewell revival has not yet incited the same kind of reaction – although there was one heckler on Sunday night. And now only three members of that original cast are in the 2013 staging: Baierlein, wife Sallie Diamond, and Paul Caouette.

Kenny Burt, who started with Germinal in its first season in 1974, had to drop out just before rehearsals were to begin because he is now undergoing a marrow transplant. But he dropped me a line the other day to tell me about the good old days. (It might help for you to first read the cast taking on the question, “What the hell IS this play?”)

“I have two distinct memories that stand out,” Burt wrote. “The first was a night early in the run when, for the first time, we got someone who came with the preconception that this was a “happening.” Fairly early in the performance, I was downstage, and this guy — wearing a cap, I distinctly recall — stood up, walked onstage and put his hand on someone’s shoulder near me. I just thought, “Focus. Point of concentration. What are we going to do now?”

Burt doesn’t remember of this was the audience member who started “the riot.” “Frankly, I don’t remember ‘the riot,’ he said. “I just remember that silent, poor misguided guy.”

His second strong memory was from the night his parents came. “I was 26 or so, and my parents came to shows I was involved in pretty often,” he said. “My dad loved theater, but he was of the “Arsenic and Old Lace” era — and my mom came because I was her son.

“Ed had directed all the actors to wear a slack-jawed expression that never changed — an ‘expression’ that was as close to expressionless as one could be, while scanning over the audience section near us constantly. I remember looking at the audience, making eye contact with my parents and thinking, ‘I wonder what the (bleep) they are thinking? I bet they hate this.’ It was the second-most uncomfortable moment I’ve ever had — and not just in theater. The most uncomfortable moment was the night I had to be naked on stage and my father had come to the show. But that’s another theater, and another story.”

Burt knows there are a lot of people who hate “Offending the Audience.” “I’ve never understood that,” he said. I think it is (bleeping) hilarious and brilliant. I agree with Ed that it is an exceptional statement about the theatergoing experience. However, that said, I’ve never had to go watch it as the majority of people do, not knowing what they are getting into, and bringing inside themselves all the preconceptions that each individual undoubtedly does. Of course, (playwright Peter) Handke’s knowing that that’s what is going to happen is part of the piece’s brilliance. Plus, I started getting interested in theater when theater of the absurd was very popular, especially on college campuses.

“I still remember the sense of excitement that first seeing absurdist plays gave me, and ‘Offending the Audience’ is one logical extension of one of the themes of absurdist theater.”

According to Burt, Baierlein had scheduled another play for that time slot, but after the first read-through, he came to rehearsal and announced that the play was so unworthy of production that they were going to do “Offending the Audience” instead.

“I remember totally understanding his point about the original selection,” said Burt. “That I can’t remember the show’s title is testament to its unremarkability. On a personal note, though, I was deeply disappointed for myself. I had done the best audition I have ever done before or since for that damn show, and had been cast in a romantic lead role. This was a first — and last — for me.”

Burt first got involved with Germinal during a heady period for the theater.

“I distinctly remember working a rehearsal, running lights and thinking, ‘It’s just SO good!’ he said. “I thought I’d never seen acting of that caliber. To this day, I don’t think I’ve seen acting that is any better. It was very moving for me to be around people who were so dedicated to their craft. Further, for me at least, I felt like this was important work. World-changing, important work. It was a mission that had the power to change people’s lives. I was convinced of that in my heart.

“I don’t know if people, especially young people, feel that way about doing theater in Denver these days, but I did. I remember a few of us sitting around talking after a rehearsal one night during the first season, and Ed said, ‘I want to put ever other theater in Denver out of business.’ As much as I felt a sense of purpose in my involvement at Germinal, even I thought that he was overstating things just a tad — perhaps he was being a little ironic. But then he said, ‘No, I really do.’ It made quite an impression.”

“Offending the Audience”
Aug. 9-25, 2013
2450 W. 44th Ave., 303-455-7108 or germinal’s home page

 

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Additional coverage:

At “Terminal Germinal,” these walls CAN talk. Check out our photo essay of all the backstage quotes that have been etched into the dressing-room walls.

“Offending the Audience”: What the hell is this play?

Why dozens of Denver actors are oh so eager to offend you

 

 

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

John Moore, former Denver Post Theater Critic, joins DCPA

John Moore. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins

John Moore. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins

The cat has vacated the bag: I am going back to work — for pay! Alexandra Griesmer, P.R. and Promotions Manager for the Denver Center Theatre Company, made the announcement this morning:

“John Moore, former theater critic of The Denver Post and founder of www.CultureWest.org, has been named to The Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ newly created position of Associate Director of Content Strategy. In this role, Moore will create and distribute relevant and valuable content to engage and retain customers and develop a positive, insightful experience for theater patrons.”

I can’t believe my good fortune to be joining the Denver Center. After immersing myself in all the happenings at the Denver Performing Arts Complex since 2001, advancing and reviewing nearly every show performed there, it feels like coming home.

I will share a few more thoughts about this forward-thinking arrangement at the end of this blog. But first, here’s the content of the release:

August 15, 2013
Contact: Alexandra Griesmer
303.446.4835 | agriesmer@dcpa.org

JOHN MOORE — FORMER DENVER POST THEATER CRITIC — NAMED ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF CONTENT STRATEGY OF THE DENVER CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

DENVER, CO — John Moore, former theatre critic of The Denver Post and founder of CultureWest.org, has been named to The Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ newly created position of Associate Director of Content Strategy. In this role, Moore will create and distribute relevant and valuable content to engage and retain customers and develop a positive, insightful experience for theatre patrons.

“John will be key to reaching new audiences,” said Denver Center Chairman Daniel L. Ritchie. “He is respected in the Colorado theatre community and, indeed, nationally. We are pleased to welcome him into the DCPA family.”

Moore joins The Denver Center after a 28-year career in the newspaper industry. After working in various capacities at publications in Colorado, New York, Texas and North Carolina, he served as The Denver Post theatre critic and editor for 12 years providing him with an intimate knowledge of The Denver Center’s two theatrical divisions — the Tony Award-winning Denver Center Theatre Company and the Broadway touring presenter Denver Center Attractions.

While theatre critic at The Post, Moore wrote more than 3,000 theatre reviews, feature stories, columns and breaking news stories. As new technology evolved, he clearly saw the opportunities available to mainstream media. He conceived and implemented an online portal that soon served as a model for other markets around the country. This online coverage evolved to include video podcasts, script samples, photo galleries and an ancillary site devoted solely to coverage of high school theater.

Considered a strong advocate for Colorado’s local theater scene, Moore has received numerous awards and commendations including:
• Journalistic Excellence in the Arts Award (Colorado Theatre Guild, 2012)
• Best Performance by a Theater Advocate Award (Westword, 2012)
• One of 12 most influential theatre critics in the US (American Theatre magazine, 2011)
• First place in Arts & Entertainment Criticism (Society of Professional Journalists, 2007)
• More than 20 awards from other organizations including Colorado Press Association, Denver Press Club, Society of Black Journalists, PHAMALy and Alliance of Community Theatres

Not one to be content sitting in the audience, Moore has become an active participant in Colorado’s art scene. He founded and ran The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase, an annual celebration of local music that has grown into a four-day, 325-band indie-rock festival, which just completed its 13th year. After leaving The Denver Post, Moore founded CultureWest.org, a new website devoted to covering arts and culture throughout Colorado. Moore also recently founded the Denver Actors Fund, a new non-profit that will provide emergency situational relief when members of the local theatre community find themselves in sudden medical need. The “Tap-Shoe Initiative” is one program the Fund has launched to engage the support of actors and audiences. Theaters are asked to place a tap shoe in the green room and lobby into which company members and patrons can place a donation.

Moore’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, Inside Arts Magazine, The Denver Post, The Raleigh News and Observer, The Dallas Times Herald and The National Sports Daily among many other leading publications, Moore can take his considerable knowledge of theatre and his extensive familiarity with the DCPA to develop content that continues to help shape and inform the community’s perception of theatre.

Moore is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Denver’s Regis Jesuit High School.

# # #

Here are a few thoughts I have on the new job:

*The continuing diminution of the traditional media is making it more difficult for arts organizations to get their stories told to widespread audiences. I think that by a hiring an arts journalist, the Denver Center is taking a bold and proactive step to ensure that the great stories taking place every day will continue to be told in credible, enlightening and innovative ways. It’s a forward-thinking move that I think may be emulated by other large arts organizations in the years to come.

*Since 2001, I have cultivated a relationship with the same readership of The Denver Post who largely make up the Denver Center’s audience base. I think that my practiced and passionate eye will allow me to tell informed, credible stories that are steeped in the proud history of the organization. Good, credible storytelling that engages audiences starts a conversation, and engenders a kind of loyalty that will remain long after the actors take their final bows.

*I intend to engage our audiences in a daily dialogue, using multiple multimedia platforms that will allow our guests to feel both more informed and more connected to the Center — and in more urgent and satisfying ways — than ever before.

Bas Bleu’s “Magical Thinking” wins top festival prize

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Bas Bleu Theatre artistic director Wendy Ishii, left, and production manager Tricia Navarre hold up the Fort Collins company’s booty from the 2013 Colorado Theatre Festival in Denver, including outstanding actress (Ishii) and play (“The Year of Magical Thinking”).

By John Moore
Aug. 11, 2013

The Colorado Community Theatre Coalition has announced the winners from its 2013 Colorado Theatre Festival held this weekend at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. They are:

FIRST PLACE: “The Year of Magical Thinking,” Bas Bleu Theatre Company, Fort Collins

SECOND PLACE: “Sitting Together,” Longmont Theatre Company

THIRD PLACE: “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy,” Vintage Theatre (currently playing through Aug. 31)

BEST ACTRESS: Wendy Ishii, Bas Bleu, “The Year of Magical Thinking”
OTHER NOMINEES:
Shauna Earp, Flying Rabbit Productions, “SCRIPTprov” (currently playing at the Avenue Theater through Aug. 24)
Liana Shafer Huey, Longmont Theatre Company, “Sitting Together”
Ginny Butler, Heather Gardens, “Riviera Royale”
Margie Lamb, Ignite Theatre, “Next to Normal”

BEST ACTOR: James O’Hagan-Murphy, Vintage Theatre, “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”
OTHER NOMIMEES:
Alejandro Roldan, Ignite Theatre, “Next to Normal”
Kaleb Tank, Longmont Youth Theatre, “Voices In Conflict”
Aaron Huey, Longmont Theatre Company, “Sitting Together”
Cody Wehrli, Longmont Youth Theatre, “Voices In Conflict”

BEST DIRECTOR: Larisa Netterlund, Longmont Theatre Company, “Sitting Together”
OTHER NOMINEES:
Terry Dodd, Vintage Theatre, “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”
Oz Scott, Bas Bleu, “The Year of Magical Thinking”

ACTING COMPETITION: Mark Terzani

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN: Vintage Theatre, “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”

BEST SET DESIGN: Vintage Theatre “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”

BEST COSTUMES: Heather Gardens, “Riviera Royale”

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Ellie McKeenan, Piano Accompanist, Heather Gardens

TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT: Vintage Theatre, “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”

PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD: Heather Gardens, “Riviera Royale”

 

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Photo essay: At the “Terminal Germinal,” these walls CAN talk

To see these photos on a mobile device, click here.

By John Moore
Aug. 11, 2013

At the Germinal Stage-Denver, which I’ve taken to calling the “Terminal Germinal,” these walls CAN talk. For 26 years, actors have been reading the writing on the walls there. And they put it there.

They have filled most every inch of backstage wall space with favorite quotes from characters they have played, with their own pearls of wisdom, with self-help encouragement and with even a dialogue on the greatest film actresses. (The list includes Gena Rowlands, Vanessa Redgrave and Meryl Streep.) There’s an even a poignant farewell letter from actor Erica Sarzin-Borrillo written both to the building and a seminal character she just played there in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

The quotes, ranging from the Lillian Hellman to Harold Pinter to even the B-52s (!), not only tell the story of this particular theater, but in may ways, the story of live theater itself. Quotes etched into walls like grave markers reflect the necessarily impermanent permanence of live theater. It lasts only as long as a memory — or a wall. As it should be.

On Aug. 25, Germinal will shut the doors at its 26-year home at 44th Avenue and Alcott Street in northwest Denver. The 40-year-old “theater of substance” hopes to find a new space and begin performing new plays again sometime next year. (Read the complete story about Germinal’s decision to vacate its home here.)

The building, which has the wonderful smell of founder Ed Baierlein’s ubiquitous flavored pipe smoke leeched into its very walls, will be gutted and turned into a mixed-retail center. One of the storefronts will be a cobbler shop to be opened by the buyer. He’s the grandson of an original tenant in the building more than a half-century ago … yes, a cobbler.

“Offending the Audience”
Aug. 9-25, 2013
2450 W. 44th Ave., 303-455-7108 or germinal’s home page

 

Previous coverage:

Countdown to Closure: My blog chronicling the rehearsal process

In their own words: Why so many Denver actors are eager to offend you.

Germinal Stage-Denver: Countdown to Closure. The whole photo series to date, with some additional outtakes.

The complete story on Germinal’s decision to vacate its home.

 

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):


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Photos: My night at The Edge’s “The House of Blue Leaves”

To see caption information for any photo above, or to see the gallery if watching on a mobile phone, click here. (The information is posted on the lower-left corner of each photo.) Or just click the “show info” option on any photo.

By John Moore
Aug. 9, 2013

Opening No. 101: The Edge Theatre’s “The House of Blue Leaves”: The zoo isn’t just onstage at the Edge Theatre for John Guare’s sweet ‘n savagely dark 1966 comedy about delusion and mediocrity in the form of a Queens zookeeper itching to pursue his dream of scoring Hollywood films. Things get a little carnal backstage at the Edge as well, as evidenced by the fur flying in the photo below between Zachary Page (Ronnie) and Kelly Uhlenhopp (Bunny). The cast is led by a remarkable Tom Auclair as Artie — he learned how to piano just to play this Piano Man role, and Missy Moore as his overmedicated cuckoo’s nester of a wife, Bananas. The cast also includes Leroy Leonard, Samara Bridwell, Betsy Grisard, Natalie Carter, Rachel Graham, Stefin Woolover and Peter Marullo. Directed by Scott Bellot. Final performances 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 6 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 9-11) at 1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or the edge’s home page. Photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Lauren Meyer, Rick and Patty Yaconis, and Gloria Shanstrom.

OPENING 101

To see the official “Opening Nights” photo series (these are outtakes), click here.

 

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Photos: My night at “Steel Magnolias”

To see caption information for any photo above, or to see the gallery if watching on a mobile phone, click here. (The information is posted on the lower-left corner of each photo.) Or just click the “show info” option on any photo.

By John Moore
Aug. 8, 2013

OPENING 100
Opening No. 100: Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias” This annual summer play staged right in the lobby of the downtown Barth Hotel is a fundraiser that helps the organization provide housing and services to 700 low- or no-income seniors. Before Saturday’s performance, resource development coordinator Jane Prancan showed the crowd the new emergency preparedness backpacks that have been distributed to all 700 residents. The packs were purchased from the Red Cross with proceeds from last summer’s production of “Driving Miss Daisy,” which netted $50,000. This year’s production is Robert Harling’s ubiquitous Southern weeper that focuses on the camaraderie between six Louisiana women who talk, gossip, needle and harangue each other through the best of times – and comfort and repair one another through the worst of times at Truvy’s Beauty Salon. Featuring an all-star cast of Rhonda Brown, Rachel Fowler, Adrian Egolf, Devon James, Billie McBride and Patty Figel. Directed by Ashlee Temple. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through Aug. 24 at the Barth Hotel, 1514 17th St., 303-595-4464, ext. 10, or senior housing options’ home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Jane Prancan, Kat Valentine King, Frank Haas.

Bonus coverage:
“Steel Magnolias” launches Denver Actors Fund’s “Tap Shoe Initiative”

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Video: Five Minutes With … Ellen Kaye of “Showboat”

By John Moore
Aug. 8, 2013

Here’s our video conversation with Boulder native Ellen Kaye, who is playing Ellie Mae Shipley in Central City Opera’s mammoth “Showboat,” as well as director Ray Roderick. It’s playing at the Buell Theatre only through Aug. 11, 2013.

The cast features Broadway bigwigs, opera superstars … and Kaye playing principal roles. Yep, our little Kate Monster from Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q” caught the (obviously canny) eye of big-shot director Roderick.

“Showboat” is the groundbreaking 1927 musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II best known for the song “Old Man River.” It tells the story of the workers on a Mississippi showboat over 50 years, tackling themes of racial prejudice and tragic love.

Kaye is a mezzo-soprano who grew up watching the Central City Opera and traveling shows at the Buell Theatre. But this week, the stage is all hers. Well, not exactly ALL hers. She will share it with a company of nearly 100, including an all-Denver gospel chorus as well as 38 onstage musicians.

Kaye, a graduate of Fairview High School and now the pride of Gilpin County, was nominated for Best Actress in a Musical by the Denver Post Ovation Awards for playing Eva Peron in 2011 at the Town Hall Arts Center, and again last year for playing Kate Monster (and Lucy the Slut!) in BDT’s “Avenue Q.” Since then, she has made her debut with the Denver Center Theater Company in the ensemble of “Romeo and Juliet.” Ellen is also kind of a Yoga Master (my words) at Kindness Yoga and Pilates (303-316-8265).

“Showboat” runs only through Aug. 11 at the Buell. Call 303-292-6700 or go to www.centralcityopera.org/tickets. Video by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Running time: 5 minutes.

 

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):


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“Offending the Audience”: What the hell is this play?

“Offending the Audience” will be the final play staged by Germinal Stage-Denver at its longtime home at 2450 W. 44th Ave. It runs Aug. 9-25, 2013. Call 303-455-7108 or go to www.germinalstage.com. Video by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Running time: 1 minute.

By John Moore
Aug. 6, 2013

DAY 40“Offending the Audience,” by Austrian Peter Handke, is sometimes called an “anti-play” because of its renouncements of theatricality.

From Wikipedia: In “Offending the Audience,” there is no plot. No story is being told at all. Instead, the audience is made aware that what they see is not a representation of anything else, but is in fact quite literal. The actors continuously repeat the point that this is not a play, and that nothing theatrical will happen.

WHAT THE HELL?

“Offending the Audience,” opening Aug. 9, will be the final production staged at the 40-year-old Germinal Stage-Denver’s 26-year home at 44th Avenue and Alcott Street in northwest Denver. Founder Ed Baierlein has gathered more than 40 iconic actors from every era of his theater’s history … and me … (for some still-unknown reason) … to perform it.

I posed many of these esteemed actors a single question: So what IS this play … in one word? You can for yourselves see how well they did with that strict assignment here:


Lawrence Allen and Melissa Pear:
Mind-blower.

Linda Barner: Mobius strip. (Editor’s translation: “A two-dimensional object that can only exist in a three-dimensional space.”)

Eric Field:
In one word: Magnificent.
In two words: Magnificent And
In three words: Magnificent, Astonishing, Wild, And . . .

Samara Bridwell: Jarring.

Paul Caouette: Meditational.

Kristina Pitt Garner: Ornery. But as a whole, and not while trying to memorize lines, I would say: Significant.

Katharyn Grant: “Offending the Audience” is pretty much everything about existentialism that Mike Myers was making fun of in his landmark “Saturday Night Live” sketch, “Sprockets,” but without the monkey. Some of it is really funny to me; some of it hypnotizes me; some of it is deeply moving and profound. It is by far the weirdest piece of theater I have ever done or seen.

Lori Hansen: Insane.

Steve Kramer:
In tribute to Laurie Anderson: Difficult Music.

Fred Lewis:
Incomprehensible.

Lisa Mumpton: This is a love letter to the audience, and it is a love letter to theater and what theater is. It is saying, “You are why we are doing this.” … And it is frickin’ hard to memorize.

Ed Sampson: The script is an introduction to live theater, leading us carefully back to the present moment. Sort of like a gracious host at a party saying, “This is the now. Have you met?”

Erica Sarzin-Borrillo: Mind-twisting.

Penny Stames: Wordy. … (Sent to you by a flock of tiny pigeons in a tiny little box.)

Carol Timblin:
As was said in the play “Amadeus” to Mozart: “Too Many Notes … ” (but in a good way).

Augustus Truhn: Condescending-ass-blood.

Suzanna Wellens: “It reminds me of a Noh play I saw in Tokyo. So my one word: “Noh.” Though I think it describes our production perhaps more than the script.”

Gina Wencel:
Vexatious.

Diane Wziontka: A cliff.

 

“Offending the Audience”
Aug. 9-25, 2013
2450 W. 44th Ave., 303-455-7108 or germinal’s home page

Previous coverage:

Countdown to Closure: My blog chronicling the rehearsal process

Why dozens of Denver actors are oh so eager to offend you.

Germinal Stage-Denver: Countdown to Closure. The whole photo series to date, with some additional outtakes.

The complete story on Germinal’s decision to vacate its home.

 

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):


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

Why dozens of Denver actors are oh so eager to offend you

DAY 22By John Moore
Aug. 5, 2013

If you think sitting through 80 minutes of a play called “Offending the Audience” might be tough on you … pshaw. You’re getting off easy. Think of the more than 40 veteran actors who have subjected themselves to more than a month of nightly lingual gymnastics; to brain-numbing, contradictory, circuitous and repetitious s-wordplay.

“Offending the Audience,” opening Aug. 9, will be the final production staged at the 40-year-old Germinal Stage-Denver’s 26-year home at 44th Avenue and Alcott Street in northwest Denver. (Read the complete story about Germinal’s decision to vacate its home here.)

“Offending the Audience” is an “anti-play” written in 1966 by Austrian Peter Handke. There is no plot. There are no characters. It is rather a kind of choral monologue that puts both audiences and theater itself in their improper places: On the defensive, shifting in their seats, and yes, perhaps maybe even mildly offended. Not necessarily because of its invective, but because it puts the artifice of the theatrical experience under the microscope with both proud condescension and avant-garde sentimentality. … Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Leroy Leonard

Leroy Leonard

So why do they do it? Why did dozens of actors heed director Ed Baerlein’s call to “leave ’em squirming”?

For Leroy Leonard, the seeds were sown in 1976. He was a 17-year-old senior at Alameda High School, where he was taught by Jim Hunt, recently awarded the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Life Achievement Award.

“But my first theater foray, where I got into my car and drove out to see a play on my own, was to see ‘Offending the Audience’ at Germinal Stage on Market Street,” Leonard said.

Three original cast members are back from that seminal 1976 production — Ed Baierlein, wife Sallie Diamond and Paul Caouette. Leonard is believed to be the only 2013 cast member who was an “Offended” audience member in 1976.

“I was completely confused,” Leonard said. “I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really know what to think about it … so it was just very … confusing … for me.”

But having done so much theater at Germinal ever since makes this current endeavor exciting for Leonard. “To be a part of this show is very meaningful for me in a full circle kind of way,” he said.

“I am a very sentimental guy, so in the middle of the piece, when Ed talks about the plays that have been presented here, my tears are already welling in my eyes.”

When Carol Timblin, above, married Steven Kramer, the wedding party wore formal wear from the Germinal's George Bernard Shaw costume closet.

When Carol Timblin, above, married Steven Kramer, the wedding party wore formal wear from the Germinal’s George Bernard Shaw costume closet.

Don’t talk to castmate Stephen R. Kramer about tears. He’s been with Germinal for 28 years.

“This the first step in mourning for me,” Kramer said. “You know; it’s anger, denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It’s going to be hard.”

Baierlein was Kramer’s best man when he married Carol Timblin, also a 2013 “Offending the Audience” cast member, more than 20 years ago. “We wore Germinal formal wear at our wedding,” said Timblin, meaning that the wedding party wore costumes from the most recent George Bernard Shaw production at Germinal.

“The tough part for me in losing the building is that when my daughter, Chelsea, was born, we were working on ‘Woyzeck’ (by Georg Buchner), which I translated and directed,” Kramer said. “While we were working on the set, Ed actually would carry her around and show her all the pictures on the wall and sing to her. She was maybe 3 months old. She is 22 now.

“I had never heard Ed sing before. It was a softening that I had never seen before.”

Baierlein has promised that Germinal will continue as a nomadic company, but he’s nearing 70, and having had both hip and prostate surgeries, there are no guarantees.

“All we are doing is closing the building,” said Kramer. “We just need fewer seats. We are at 115 now, and that’s too many. The market won’t hold it. So we are looking for between 50 and 75 — and Ed is actually excited about finding a space. Every time he looks at a building, he sits down at a computer and he mocks it up. It’s really energizing him, and that is fun to see.”

But say for some reason … this is the swan song. If that’s the case, Kramer said, “I had to be here.”

Leonard says this final production in the old building feels right.

“I can’t imagine a more appropriate way to close the building,” he said, “than with a cast made up of so many people from all different phases of this theater’s history.”

Back to that original question:
Here are other cast members’ answers to the question, “So why are you doing it?

Linda Barner: After 40 years of involvement in theater in Denver, I had to be a part of this production because Germinal Stage-Denver has been a huge part of that theater experience. When we’re in “places,” and I look around at all my other casties, I see my life in Denver theater reflected back; it’s very much like a family reunion.

Paul Barner I: This is a unique production. Look at all the people here who have worked at Germinal. All these good people … I could not say no.

Paul Barner II: I am doing it for the money.

Laura Booze: This theater is part of Denver history, and having done several plays here, it is just important for me to see it close, and I am so sad that it is closing.

Samara Bridwell: I feel unbelievably privileged to be part of this show. I feel like a total cool kid. I’m stoked. I wish I had met Ed 20 years ago so I could have gained his knowledge over the years. But instead, I have too cram it all in now.

Paul Caouette: I was one of the original cast members (in 1976). But I’m not doing it now as a recapitulation. God knows it wasn’t “rewarding” from a traditional actor’s perspective … and I don’t expect it to be any different this time. But it fills my heart with glee each time I hear Ed chuckling as we go about with our invectives. It’s an honor to be part of this menagerie who have given life to Germinal Stage-Denver.

Sallie Diamond: I think I just to see everyone again till God knows when, and to see what the experience would be like to have a cast this rangey in such a comparatively (for Germinal Stage-Denver) free-form on the stage at once.

Eric Field: Ed Baierlein is a genius of theater and performance arts. He first cast me 24 years ago, essentially unschooled and untrained, and let me become a professional and effective actor (and showed me how), in show after demanding show, of all kinds and genres, with endless teachable (and taught) moments, insights, discoveries, honesties, high standards, artistry, idiosyncracy, and no bullshit. Work for Ed? Anytime. Do this brilliant, bizarre, joyous show? Yes, with him directing it. Join the cast of thousands? Wouldn’t have missed it for the world! (Especially all these talented, fun-loving, generous, high-achievement actors, many of whom I’ve worked with and love, many others I had always dreamed of sharing a stage with.) Do the last show at the Germ? My mom’s cousin was on the last plane out of Angkor Watt before the war closed in. The last rant out of GSD wasn’t even a doubt.

Katharyn Grant: I wanted to connect with the wonderful people I’d worked with at Germinal in the past, and honor a theater where I’d had so many profound experiences, both as a performer and as an audience member.

Paul Greengross: I’ll be coming out from Granada Hills, Calif., to join the cast on the final weekend. I hope I’m not offending the cast by barging in. I was involved in several shows in the 1980s. Germinal and Ed had a great impact on my development as an actor, so it’s important for me to be there at the end of this amazing run. I also want to be there to pay tribute to my late friend and comrade David Kristin, who passed away this past year. I’m looking forward to seeing my old acting buddies.

Lori Hansen: The Germinal Stage has been an integral part of my life for the past 14 years, having done 13 shows there. Ed is a brilliant actor and director and I learn from him every time I have the honor to be cast. I have the utmost love, respect and gratitude to the entire Baierlein family and they will always have a very important place in my heart. I wouldn’t have missed this last show for the world.

Elgin Kelley: I want to say goodbye to Ed, especially after all the great stuff Germinal has done. It was nice to be asked to be a part of this great community.

Patrick Mann: When Ed Baierlein calls you to be in the final show at “Terminal Stage-Denver,” you would be crazy to say no. It’s an honor to be a part of this theater’s history.”

John Moore (the only first-time Germinal actor in the cast): I was talking with Ed Baierlein about chronicling the final play at Germinal Stage as a journalist. By dropping into rehearsals from time to time, taking photos and videos, interviewing cast members. He said, “Great, you are in the show.” This has been my own personal year of saying, “What the hell?” So I said yes. After the first rehearsal, I wanted to punch the play in the face.

Lisa Mumpton: Because it’s the swan song. It’s the big event.

Melissa Pear and Lawrence Allen: Because it was an honor to be invited by Ed to be part of the last show at the historic Germinal Stage.

Erica Sarzin-Borrillo: It’s hard to resist Ed Beirlein when he says, “We can’t do this without you.” These days, I make it a rule to not do a play for the sake of “doing a play.” I have to find tremendous meaning that genuinely moves me, and that I feel certain will move an audience. This project was not about the play. It was not about the role … It was about Ed. Which is not to say it isn’t a fine play. But I’m here in gratitude after these many many years, having been embraced by the Germinal, and the kind home it I came to know it as.”

Penny Stames: I was a part of Germinal for several years starting in 1974, when it was a fledgling endeavor begun by a small group, including a dear friend and my guy at the time. I was primarily their costumer, but occasionally did small roles as well. When Ed phoned to ask me if I was interested, I first thought he was asking me to costume it. When he made it clear he wanted me to be a part of the actual “cast,” I couldn’t say no. How often do you get to be a part of something from start to finish? Germinal has been one of the most consistent venues for quality theater in Denver. To have been a part of it was an honor. To be a part of the last show a gift.

Carol Timblin: I’m here because Germinal is home; because it’s my family. My son pointed this out to me last night when he came by and said, “Wow, I know almost everyone These people are part of his life as well. Because it’s where I first worked with my (not yet) husband. Because I have loved all of the shows and knowledge I have gained here. and it’s good to have closure for the old place to set off into the new beginning … Because my heart is here.

Augustus Truhn I: Ed has always been a unique ambassador for theater in Denver. I would describe that style as “anything goes” theater. Ed was kind to me in the ’90s. He gave me some good roles and always has been a blast to work with. I feel like this icon of Denver theater is going away, and I want to be a part of it.

Augustus Truhn II: I am an insatiable sadomasochist. So coming back to Germinal and doing this play is totally getting me off.

Petra Ulrych: When you get invited to the last party, you should come.

Gina Wencel: Because Ed has given me such wonderful roles to play – some of my most transcendent acting experiences have come under his direction. I also adore Sallie and Tad. I wanted to show my support and gratitude by performing in this last show at the Alcott space.

Suzanna Wellens: After working so often at Germinal Stage, it would have been painful for me to miss this right of passage. And what’s more fun than taking on an outrageous artistic challenge? Especially in company with so many very smart and talented actors.

Diane Wziontka: As a single mom, I don’t get to play creatively very much. I am honored to be a part of the Germinal send-off.

There you have it. Come at your own peril. You have been warned. You are welcome.

“Offending the Audience”
Aug. 9-25, 2013
2450 W. 44th Ave., 303-455-7108 or germinal’s home page

 

Previous coverage:

Countdown to Closure: My blog chronicling the rehearsal process

Germinal Stage-Denver: Countdown to Closure. The whole photo series to date, with some additional outtakes.

The complete story on Germinal’s decision to vacate its home.

 

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):


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

“Steel Magnolias” launches Denver Actors Fund’s “Tap Shoe Initiative”

SHO PIGGY

By John Moore
Aug. 4, 2013

Senior Housing Options last night became the first area theater company to designate a performance as “Denver Actors Fund Night,” in effect launching its new Tap Shoe Initiative.

Senior Housing Options’ resource development coordinator Jane Prancan made a pre-show curtain speech introducing the Denver Actors Fund to Saturday night’s “Steel Magnolias” audience, asking that they toss their spare change into a piggy bank she had set up in the lobby. In an additional show of support, Prancan announced that all intermission drink sales would go to the Denver Actors Fund.

That was all the more generous of a gesture given that “Steel Magnolias” is itself a fundraiser. Every summer, a play is staged in the lobby of the Barth Hotel that raises money for programs that provide services to more than 500 economically disadvantaged seniors in the metro area. “But without our actors,” Prancan told the crowd, “we don’t have a show.”

Prancan’s efforts netted the Denver Actors Fund an easy-breezy $115.80, which brings the balance of this brand-new nonprofit funding source to $3,268.46. The hope is that all metro companies will participate in the Tap Shoe Initiative as a way of helping to replenish the Denver Actors Fund as grants go out to help actors.

I founded the Denver Actors Fund three months ago as a modest new source of relief for when members of the local theater community (on stage or off) find themselves in immediate, situational medical need. As part of ongoing fundraising efforts, board president Chris Boeckx conceived of the “Tap Shoe Initiative,” which asks every metro theater company to create their own signature piggy bank – the Fund’s own change collector is a tap shoe signed by Tommy Tune and donated by Rick Madden.

The companies are being asked to give their “tap shoes” (or whatever they conceive) a permanent backstage home where it can collect change from actors, crew and visitors throughout the run of a show. In addition, companies are asked to designate one night per year or run (as often as they deem appropriate) as “Denver Actors Fund Nights,” were the shoe is moved out into the lobby, and the audience on that given night is asked to chip in.

Here is more information on the Denver Actors Fund.

Here is more information on the Tap Shoe Initiative.

We are grateful to Jane Prancan for taking such immediate action in response to our call for participation, which only went out to theater companies last month. “Steel Magnolias,” featuring Denver Actors Fund volunteer council member Rhonda Brown, plays Thursdays through Saturdays through Aug. 24 at the Barth Hotel, 1514 17th St. Call 303-595-4464, ext. 10, or go to Senior Housing Options’ home page.

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

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

Photos: My night at Phamaly’s “Fiddler on the Roof”

To see caption information for any photo above, or to see the gallery if watching on a mobile phone, click here. (The information is posted on the lower-left corner of each photo.) Or just click the “show info” option on any photo.

By John Moore
Aug. 3, 2013

Opening No. 98: Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Fiddler on the Roof”: Colorado’s renowned professional handicapped theater company has a pre-show ritual called “Zap.” As if there weren’t enough energy in the air already, the group circles up and begins to buzz. Literally. Group leader (and leading actor) Mark Dissette yells variations on, “This is our dream – get a little louder” …. And they do. “Bzzz.” “This is our vision – get a little louder.” And they do. “BZZZ.” After more exhortation, the vibration builds to a deafening climax. “1-2-3 …” Dissette shouts, and 40-plus voices scream in unison, “ZAP!” That’s followed by sudden, solemn silence. The next spoken word is not to be uttered by anyone until the actors hit the stage. Though I am hardly a digital stitcher of panoramas (obviously), this photo is my attempt to circle the circle. This summer, “Fiddler” takes on the famous musical about the small town of Anatevka, rooted in its tradition, as it comes together to celebrate life, mourn death, rejoice in marriage, and care for each other. Tevye and his wife Golde have to make difficult decisions in the face of new ideas coming from the outside world. You can bet Phamaly director Steve Wilson chooses apt moments that make plain Phamaly tells these classic stories like you’ve never seen them before. Just wait till you see the chair dance. I am always made aware each summer how many people are seeing Phamaly productions for the first time. After the opening number, pretty much the whole audience could hear an incredulous man in the audience sort of whisper-shout his epiphany: “I think that rabbi dude is BLIND!!!” “Fiddler”features a cast of 32 and stars Dissette as Tevye; Kathleen Traylor as Golde; Rachel Van Scoy, Kenzie Kilroy and Lyndsay Palmer as the daughters whose names I can never keep straight; Trenton Schindele, Jeremy Palmer and Daniel Traylor as their matchless matches; Ashley Kelashian as Yente, Kevin Pettit as Lazar Wolf; and the tag-team of Leslie Wilburn and Sophia Hummell as the fiddlers. Speaking of Phamaly singular Phamaly moments, keep an eye on the oversized dress that drapes the dream-demon Fruma-Sarah. Sometimes the magic of Phamaly is most evident in its transparency. “Fiddler” plays through Aug. 11 at the Space Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-575-0005 or phamaly’s home page. Thanks: Gloria Shanstrom, Erin Leonard, cast and crew.

 

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

 

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Former Fort Collins theater manager Matt Strauch sent to prison

matt

By John Moore
Aug. 2, 2013

Former Bas Bleu Theatre general manager Matt Strauch was sentenced to four years in prison today for violating terms of his sentencing.

Last year, Strauch pleaded guilty to stealing more than $40,000 from Bas Bleu and a Fort Collins charter school. Prior to his plea deal, Strauch could have faced up to 12 years in prison and restitution of up to $750,000. Instead, Chief District Court Judge Stephen J. Schapanski sentenced Strauch to four years in a community corrections facility. That would allow him to continue to work, so that he could begin to pay restitution to his victims.

But at that sentencing hearing last year, Schapanski made it clear that Strauch would not be given a second chance if he violated any terms of his sentence. Recently, Strauch was caught drinking alcohol in a bar, and also tampering with his tests.

His Community Corrections case worker immediately recommended that Strauch’s original sentence be terminated, and that he be sent to the Department of Corrections.

Strauch will be credited for time already served, making him eligible for release in March 2016.

In December 2011, Strauch was a student working toward his second bachelor’s degree at CSU while working as general manager at Bas Bleu Theatre, and serving as a board treasurer at T.R. Paul Academy of Arts and Knowledge.

Strauch was first caught stealing money in 2008, but no charges were filed. Foul play was suspected again when a donor alerted Bas Bleu in December 2011 about a $2,600 check that had been deposited into a bank account created by Strauch, a former director of finance for the Associated Students of CSU.

A police investigation found that Strauch had created a false bank account under Bas Bleu’s name, ultimately stealing $25,910.90. Police soon found he had done a similar thing to the charter school, making five unauthorized counter withdrawals on its accounts and writing four unauthorized checks to Bas Bleu from the school.

The total losses for both organizations equaled $41,881.93.

While Strauch’s ability to pay restitution will slow while Strauch is in prison, restitution never goes away, and his obligations will continue after his release until it is fully paid.

Wire services contributed to this report.

CultureWest turns 1: A look back at a wild year in Colorado theater

DSC_0594

From CultureWest’s ongoing “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theater” photo series: Backstage at the opening of Magic Moments’ “Spirit & Soul.”

By John Moore
Aug. 2, 2013

One year ago, a local foundation created www.CultureWest.Org on my behalf as a beta blog for what we all hoped would become a new, fully staffed and fully funded, web-based media outlet exclusively covering arts and culture in Colorado. Well, when life hands you lemons …

That particular dream may have died, but one  year later, be it ever so humble, that beta blog is still here, celebrating its one-year anniversary of covering mostly the local theater community in fun, innovative and, in some cases, groundbreaking ways, telling stories using words, photos and video.

When I was a staff writer for the Denver Post, I averaged about 250 bylines a year — and I was paid for it. I am proud as a peacock to note that CultureWest has launched 234 pieces of new content in its first year — without my getting paid for it.

This web project has been a labor of love. And so today, if you will allow me, I want to take a moment to look back at just some of the highlights in taking on this journalistic experiment. And to offer those of you who may be new to the website the chance to explore some of the projects we have undertaken. Enjoy!

 

Ongoing photo and story projects:

It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre: For this ongoing photo series, we  have visited backstage before 99 theater openings in 2013 — so far.

Beautiful Women Wearing My Sunglasses: A daily profile of a woman (and a few token dudes) as a cheeky way of promoting the people and plays being staged in the area. Today was daily entry No. 104.

Anatomy of a director: We interviewed 40 local directors for 40 days asking them about this seldom-discussed aspect of the creative process.

 

Video projects:

The Shelly Bordas Story: A beloved local actor is given a terminal diagnosis. Part 3 is in the works.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: Following the story of a self-started local musical takes a turn when the director (and star) is seriously injured on opening night.

Equinox, Sugar honor Adam Perkes by resuming “Bat Boy” performances


My memorial film for the 2013 Henry Awards

 

Interesting interviews: 

Eden Lane: The first transgender journalist on mainstream TV opens up about her life and challenges

Video: Quincy Jones on Michael Jackson as “Thriller” turns 30

Video: Oskar Eustis on the American theater: ‘The worst of both worlds is happening’

Iddo Netanyahu

Video: Three minutes with … Pam Grier


Video: The Skype Sessions: Constantine Maroulis of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’

Phil Sneed’s exit/entrance interview

Denver Center actor John Hutton on Spielberg, “Lincoln” and on being invited to the party

Mark Collins turns actor: Two ex-theater critics, sitting around having coffee

 

Breaking news:
Shows go on, theaters safe as fires rage near Creede

Convicted UNC theater professor Vance Fulkerson released from prison one year early

Germinal Stage’s theater to close, but company will play on

Heritage Square Music Hall will close at end of year

 

Long-form stories and personal essays:

Moore on Moore: You can’t say ‘director’ without ‘dire’ (on directing “Always, Patsy Cline”)

What companies can learn from the reinvention of Curious Theatre Company

10 years later, the first openly gay athlete in team sports history

Don’t be frightened, Regis High School students, but … We are your future

 

Greater good:
The creation of the new Denver Actors Fund: This new nonprofit will help members of the local theater community during medical emergencies.

Launch of the 2012 True West Theater Awards


Fund to aid actor Robert Michael Sanders launches like a rocket

 

Local music:
Our coverage of the 2013 Underground Music Showcase (The UMS)

Photos: My night at Illumination Theatre’s ‘Sordid Lives’

To see caption information for any photo above, or to see the gallery if watching on a mobile phone, click here. (The information is posted on the lower-left corner of each photo.) Or just click the “show info” option on any photo.

By John Moore
Aug. 2, 2013

Opening No. 97: Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”: Quintessential Texas playwright Del Shores came to Denver to help launch the new Illumination Theatre with Shores’ most popular cross-dressing comedy, “Sordid Lives.” It’s aptly billed as “a black comedy about white trash.” Todd Black anchors a large ensemble playing a Texas family that must bury the good Christian philandering matriarch who hit her head on the sink and bled to death after tripping over her lover’s wooden legs in a motel room. Shores spoke to the cast before the show and donated many signed pieces of memorabilia for auction items to help the new theater company off the ground. The next day, he taught two acting classes to members of the public at the Colorado Free University on the former Lowry Air Force Base. That’s also where “Sordid Lives” plays, at the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, through Aug. 17. “Sordid Lives” is directed by Bernie Cardell and features Todd Black, Patrick Brownson, LuAnn Buckstein, Dale Haltom, Kevin Leonard, Mathew Link, Kelly Mann, Boni McIntyre, Emma Messenger, Shahara Ostrand, Gracen Porreca and Luke Allen Terry. Call 303-475-5825 or go here for tickets. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Dale Haltom, Andrew Hunter, Andy Anderson.
 

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):