Fall at the Denver Center: No big breakthrough for local actors

Billie McBride, who will star in “The Giver,” performed with Dwayne Carrington and Sam Gregory in “Driving Miss Daisy” at the Barth Hotel this summer. Photo by Michael Ensminger

 

By John Moore

Sept. 22, 2012

The Denver Center Theatre Company on Thursday opened its 33rd season, eighth under artistic director Kent Thompson, and first since its National Theatre Conservatory grad program closed down.

The end of that highly regarded masters training program – and free talent pool for Thompson’s company – has resulted in more new faces than ever. There are 20 first-time DCTC actors in the first three shows of the 2012-13 season, which has just begun with “Fences,” “The Three Musketeers” and “The Giver.”

But while there are many recognizable local actors in those three shows,  the closing of the NTC has not resulted in the trampling-down of the doors to the local acting community as many (OK, me) had hoped. The one good thing that might come from the loss of the masters students was to have been an overdue infusion of proven local actors who wouldn’t require airfare or accommodation. But most of the newcomers this fall have come in from out of town.

There are only three local actors performing in their first official roles for the DCTC this fall, notably the long-overdue Billie McBride, who stars in “The Giver,” along with castmate Diana Dresser, who has worked at Creede Rep, the Arvada Center and elsewhere. Both have had previous understudy work with the DCTC, and Dresser appeared in the Galleria Theatre’s “Girls Only,” but neither has had a role to call her own at the DCTC before. The other new local is Samantha Long (“The Three Musketeers”), who has previously worked at Spark Theater. That group doesn’t include the many local child actors appearing in “Fences” and “The Giver,” most recognizably Alastair Hennessy, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Little Prince” in 2011. That list includes Caroline T. Bennet, the 12-year-old daughter of U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

The cast of “The Giver,” directed by Christy Montour-Larson, is made up entirely of local actors.

The list of local first-timers is expected to grow a bit with the second cycle of plays in November. Cast lists aren’t finalized, but the two most recent Henry Award winners for acting in a drama – Benjamin Bonenfant and Jake Walker – are expected to appear in the DCTC’s “When We Are Married.”

Members of the local acting community who are returning to the DCTC this fall include Beniah Anderson, Zachary Andrews, Anthony Bianco, Jamie Ann Romero and Geoff Kent, who are all for one in “The Three Musketeers.” Bryce Alexander is a first-time assistant director (“Musketeers”).

The only new first-time local understudy is Logan Ernstthal (“The Three Musketeers), a veteran of the Creede Repertory Theatre. Returning understudies include Laurence Curry, donnie l. betts and Jada Roberts (“Fences”), as well as Mackenzie Paulsen (“Musketeers”).

The NTC’s presence still will be felt with the returns of alums Hilary Blair (a voice in “The Giver”), Richard Liccardo (“Musketeers”), Timothy McCracken (“The Giver”) and Chiara Motley (“Musketeers”). Larry Hecht, their former head of acting, will star in “Musketeers” as Captain de Tréville.

But what’s perhaps most surprising about the newly issued cast lists is how few actors you could consider core DCTC company members will be performing this fall: Sam Gregory, John Hutton and Jeanne Paulsen (“Musketeers”), as well as Kim Staunton (“Fences”) and Philip Pleasants (“The Giver”). No Kathleen Brady, Mike Hartman,  Kathleen McCall, Drew Cortese or Jeanine Serralles, for varying reasons.

One of the most intriguing names on the cast lists below is  J. Paul Boehmer, who plays the Duke of Buckingham in “Musketeers” after having performed here last season in “Heartbreak House.” Boehmer is best known for his numerous appearances in the “Star Trek” universe.

CAST LISTS

“Fences” (through Oct. 14)
Director: Lou Bellamy

Troy Maxson: DAVID ALAN ANDERSON
Jim Bono: MARCUS NAYLOR
Rose: KIM STAUNTON
Lyons: JAMES T. ALFRED
Gabriel: JEROME PRESTON BATES
Cory: CALVIN DUTTON
Raynell: NADJA BROWN/EMMI GRACE SULLIVAN (alternating)
Understudies: DONNIE L. BETTS, JADA ROBERTS AND LAURENCE CURRY

 

“The Three Musketeers” (Sept. 27-Oct 21)
Director: Art Manke

Soldiers and Citizens:
Captain de Tréville: LAWRENCE HECHT
Athos: JAMISON JONES
Porthos: MIKE RYAN
Aramis: MARTIN YUREK
D’Artagnan: BEN ROSENBAUM
Planchet: RICHARD LICCARDO
M. Bonacieux: LARRY PAULSEN
Constance (Mme. Bonacieux) SOFIA JEAN GOMEZ
Mme. de Cocquenard: JEANNE PAULSEN
Abbess: JEANNE PAULSEN
Milady, the Countess de Winter: KATIE MACNICHOL
Kitty, servant to Milady: JAMIE ANN ROMERO
The Count de Wardes: BENAIAH ANDERSON
Lubin, servant to de Wardes: JOHN TOURTELLOTTE
Jussac, a member of the Cardinal’s Guard: GEOFFREY KENT
Biscarrat, a member of the Cardinal’s Guard: BEN REZENDES
Grimaud, keeper of the Pineapple Inn: DONNY REPSHER
Bazin, keeper of the Golden Lily Inn: ANTHONY BIANCO
Executioner: J. Paul Boehmer

The Court in France:
King Louis: CHARLES PASTERNAK
Queen Anne: SARAH NEALIS
Cardinal Richelieu: JOHN HUTTON
Count de Rochefort: SAM GREGORY
Mlle. D’Astrée: SAMANTHA LONG
Mme. Chevreuse: CHIARA MOTLEY

In England:
The Duke of Buckingham: J. PAUL BOEHMER
Patrick, servant in Buckingham’s court: ZACHARY ANDREWS
Reilly: LARRY PAULSEN
John Felton: CHARLES PASTERNAK
Ensemble:
BENAIAH ANDERSON, ZACHARY ANDREWS, ANTHONY BIANCO, SOFIA JEAN GOMEZ, GEOFFREY KENT, SAMANTHA LONG, KATIE MACNICHOL, CHIARA MOTLEY,SARAH NEALIS, CHARLES PASTERNAK, JEANNE PAULSEN, LARRY PAULSEN, BEN REZENDES, DONNY REPSHER, JAMIE ANN ROMERO, JOHN TOURTELOTTE

UNDERSTUDIES
BENAIAH ANDERSON (Count de Rochefort, Jussac), ZACHARY ANDREWS (King Louis, Musketeer, John Felton, The Duke of Buckingham), ANTHONY BIANCO (D’Artagnan, Planchet), LOGAN ERNSTTHAL (Captain de Tréville, Bonacieux, Reilly, Cardinal Richelieu), GEOFFREY KENT (Porthos, Athos, Aramis), SAMANTHA LONG (Mme. de Cocquenard, Abbess), CHIARA MOTLEY (Queen Anne, Milady, the Countess de Winter), MACKENZIE PAULSEN (Mme. Chevreuse, Kitty, Mlle. D’Astree), ARTIE RAY (The Count de Wardes, Lubin, Biscarrat, Patrick, Bazin, Grimaud), JAMIE ANN ROMERO (Constance)

 

“The Giver” (Oct. 4-Nov. 18)
Director: Christy Montour-Larson

Father: TIMOTHY MCCRACKEN
Mother: DIANA DRESSER
Lily: ALIZA FASSETT/AMELIA MODESITT
Jonas: JACKSON GARSKE/ALASTAIR HENNESSY
AsherGABE KOSKINEN-SANSONE/EVAN SULLIVAN
Fiona: BRYNN GAUTHIER/ISABEL SABBAH
The Chief Elder: BILLIE MCBRIDE
The Giver: PHILIP PLEASANTS
Rosemary: CAROLINE T. BENNET
Voice of Speaker: HILARY BLAIR
(There are no understudies for Ricketson Theatre shows)