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.