Costume Designer Kevin Brainerd was epitome of class and panache

Kevin Brainerd designed costumes for 18 productions at Denver’s Curious Theatre Company. Photo courtesy Markas Henry.

 

Death at age 58 has theatre community’s heart on its linen sleeve

By John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist

The clothes may not make the man, but under his meticulous eye, Kevin Brainerd’s clothes made hundreds of fictional characters come to vivid life on stages from Broadway to Boulder.

Brainerd, an acclaimed theatrical costume designer who wrapped a remarkably wide swath of the Colorado theatre, dance and opera communities in both his attire and acerbic wit, died April 27 from pancreatic cancer. He was 58.

Kevin Brainerd won the 2019 Henry Award for designing Theatre Aspen’s ‘Ragtime’ costumes. Photo by Austin Colbert.

“I have yet to allow myself to wrap my mind around not having him in my next production meeting,” said Curious Theatre Producing Artistic Director Chip Walton. “He will be missed in ways beyond words.”

Brainerd the costume designer is being remembered for his slavish devotion to detail and historical accuracy. “As a costumer, Kevin just gets you better than you get yourself,” said actor and producer Ami Dayan of Maya Productions. Actor Karen Slack added simply: “He always made me look better than I had any business looking.”

Brainerd the man is being remembered for his own impeccable fashion style, a mischievous smile, the ever-changing iterations of his facial hair and his love for the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.

Brainerd also was known for his hit-or-miss double-entendres, which often made some reference or another to a bishop or a wife. Paige Price, Producing Artistic Director of the Philadelphia Theatre Company by way of Theatre Aspen, calls Brainerd “the master of the drive-by quip.” Depending on your own sense of humor, you might say Brainerd was “situationally funny,” said his husband, Scenic and Costume Designer Markas Henry, also Director of Theatre at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“He could not tell a joke to save his life … but he was funny as hell.”

Curious Theatre Education Director Dee Covington organized a ‘Yard Bomb,’ encouraging friends to leave art on the front yard of Markas Henry’s home overnight May 2. The idea, she said, “was for Markas to wake up and see that we had been there – and that we are always here. Marking time and holding space with him.”

Brainerd also was a skilled croquet player, which suited not only his domestic landscape (the couple’s home sits directly across from City Park), but also his demeanor and fashion sense. Henry describes his style as “playfully classic … but with a flair.”

Imagine, if you will, Brainerd sporting his summer look of Bermuda shorts with a fitted T-shirt; a white, long-sleeved linen shirt (with the sleeves rolled up); and his essential Converse tennies.

“Oh, yeah, we’re both Converse whores,” Henry said with a laugh.

Now imagine Brainerd slinging a croquet mallet over his shoulder with one hand and holding a martini in his other. Brainerd was known for a mean martini, Henry said. “But just to clarify,” he added winkingly: “He could drink them – not make them.”

Brainerd also was capable of making swift and necessary decisions – like the morning after Dayan, in preparation for a production of his play “Conviction,” embarked on an ill-conceived, late-night experimentation with hair coloring, leaving Brainerd with no choice the next morning but to shave Dayan’s head clean.

“The beauty of that story is Kevin had so much compassion and appreciation for my childish inspiration,” Dayan said. “But make no mistake: He was decisive: ‘Off with the hair!’ And I have to admit it looked better than it did before.”

I didn’t know I had everything. But now I know I’ve lost everything.”  – Markas Henry

Over his 30-year career, Brainerd designed costumes for dozens of stage productions and assisted on many TV shows, films and no fewer than six Broadway musicals spanning 1993 to 2008. His Broadway break came serving as an assistant to the costume designers on “Bells are Ringing.” The pinnacle of his pre-Colorado professional life came while working on Martin Pakledinaz‘s costume design team (which included Henry) that won the 2002 Tony Award for “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Brainerd’s credits also spanned the Santa Fe Opera, The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepardstown, W.V., Opera Colorado, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Theatre Aspen, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Phamaly Theatre Company, CU-Boulder and Curious Theatre Company, where he and Henry became full artistic company members in 2012. Brainerd designed 18 shows for Curious Theatre, from Michael Hollinger’s “Opus” in 2010 to Tony Kushner’s “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures” in 2018.

“Kevin was the consummate collaborator — an artist with a clear vision, yet driven in ways that pushed the entire production toward greater clarity and excellence,” said Walton. “His attention to detail was painstaking and brilliant.”

Brainerd had a unique ability to visualize an instant understanding for each of his characters, Curious Theatre Managing Director Katie Maltais wrote in a 2017 essay. “His meticulous process was to fully psychoanalyze each of his characters to decide who they were, what type of clothes would fill their closets and what they would choose to wear both for big, important moments and simple, everyday ones.” Brainerd’s clothing choices communicated his characters’ cultural identities, professions and economic statuses, while also revealing subconscious clues about their inner worlds.

He will be missed in ways beyond words.” – Chip Walton

While Brainerd was known for researching his characters months before his directors would even decide who would be playing them, one of his defining characteristics as a costume designer was to never purchase a single piece of clothing until after he knew exactly what actor would be wearing them. He customized his designs to his actors’ skin tones, hair colors and character choices. That was a quality Slack deeply appreciated.

Karen Slack in Curious Theatre’s ‘Venus in Fur.’ Photo by Michael Ensminger.

“It doesn’t matter how much preparation you do. The moment you put Kevin’s clothing on your body, it changes everything,” said Slack. “You look at yourself and you see things differently.”

Slack had to leave her comfort zone in 2014 to play a scantily-clad human goddess in Curious Theatre’s “Venus in Fur,” fully revealing a back visibly scarred by multiple spinal surgeries. “I don’t have a normal body to work with,” she said, “but Kevin always got it just right.”

For “Venus in Fur,” she added with a laugh, “Kevin knew I was going to be mostly in my undies for the entire play, so it was really important that we had something that was revealing and sexy but also maintained some level of modesty – and made sure my lady bits were covered. Kevin taught me that double-sided tape is my dear friend.”

For “Maple and Vine,” a story that evoked 1950s Americana, Brainerd dressed Slack in some of his own mother’s period dresses. “I felt so honored. They were so beautiful and special,” Slack said. “He also taught me how to do a French twist for ‘God of Carnage.’ He did all this while always making me laugh and being my friend.”

The costumes, Brainerd told Maltais, should never overshadow the actors’ performances. “If the audience is unaware of my design,” he said, “then it is successful.”

Mayberry beginnings

Kevin F. Brainerd swelled the population of Vega, Texas, all the way to 670 when he was born on June 24, 1961, in the rural Texas Panhandle town situated on the original Route 66 about 35 miles west of Amarillo. Vega is known for roadside attractions like Dot’s Mini Museum, with its Avon perfume bottle collection and Cowboy Boot Tree.

“The Brainerds were the Cleavers of Vega,” said Henry, referencing the all-American family from TV’s “Leave it to Beaver.” Richard Brainerd was the town’s beloved District Attorney; Dorothy was a nurse for High Plains Baptist Hospital. They remain there and now have been married for 64 years.

Kevin, the third of their four children, was the smallest member of his high-school marching band – so naturally, he played the tuba.

“Kevin was a crazy, voracious reader, even as a boy,” Henry said. “When it was time for lights out, Kevin was the kind of kid who had a flashlight under his sheets reading ‘Dracula.’ He would climb a tree just to read a book, usually with his cat right by his side. He was a doodler and a drawer, and he began his career as a professional costume designer making clothes for his sister’s Barbie Dolls.

Growing up as the son of an attorney, Henry said, not only gave Brainerd a strong moral and ethical sense, it made him incapable of suffering dishonesty or fools. Which means “Kevin could gravitate toward the litigious,” Henry said with a laugh. “God forbid you ever pissed him off.”

He graduated from the University of Dallas and briefly attended SMU for graduate school before making his way to New York City and embarking on his career in costume design.

Kevin just gets you better than you get yourself.” – Ami Dayan

His early professional work included designing costumes at storefront theatres and Off-Broadway – and Off-Off-Broadway – theatres.

His life changed forever, as it did for … perhaps no one else on the planet, while attending a performance of the Broadway musical adaptation of “The Goodbye Girl.” That was a short-lived bust about which New York Times critic Frank Rich carped: “How good can a musical be when sneering drama critics get the best lines?”

Markas Henry and Kevin Brainerd

Markas Henry, left, and Kevin Brainerd have been together for 27 years. Photo courtesy Markas Henry.

Henry and Brainerd had met only peripherally, given that both were designing costumes for the New York theatre community. “We are a specific-looking lot,” Henry said. “The swatch rings, the shipping tags, the scissors and the staplers in our pockets give us away.”

The two were being initiated into the United Scenic Artists Local 829 union when Henry mentioned to Brainerd that he had an extra ticket the next night to see “The Goodbye Girl,” starring Bernadette Peters and Martin Short. Of the musical, Henry remembers only that it was kind of terrible. But he does remember the important stuff. “I remember that he had the most adorable twinkly eyes, a mischievous smile and an infectious laugh,” Henry said. “I remember that we liked the same foods, and we hated the same foods. And I remember  that he had amazing hands – and great calves.”

That it was June 8, 1993.

“We were an instant thing,” Henry said, “and we saw each other every day forward.”

The couple had a civil-union ceremony celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2013, and they were legally married in Denver in 2015.

The couple had moved to Denver at a time when Broadway was going big while the artisans’ time and resources were getting smaller. Henry, who had always wanted to teach, was hired as a temporary costume worker at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2004. He was soon made full-time and now runs the university’s Department of Theatre. The move gave the couple the opportunity to work on artistic projects together, relish in their complementary artistic aesthetics – and coordinate their calendars.

Life changes in an instant

Scenic Designer Markas Henry said Theatre Aspen’s 2008 production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was one of the best experiences he and Costume Designer Kevin ever had working together. ‘That show fired on every single cylinder,’ he said. They revisited the show in Aspen last summer. It was their last collaboration together.

Brainerd, whom Price will remember for flashing “that impish smile that hid the cigarettes he was always quitting,” began feeling pains in his back two years ago. Then came a cough he couldn’t shake. At 8:05 a.m. the morning after Christmas 2018, a doctor called with the results of a CT scan that revealed both a small spot on one lung and a bigger mass in his pancreas. The next year was all about scans, biopsies, chemotherapy infusions and radiation treatments. Yet Brainerd and Markas managed one last summer designing Theatre Aspen’s “God of Carnage” and “Little Shop of Horrors” together.

In October, Brainerd had surgery that showed his cancer had spread to his stomach lining and was now inoperable. Henry says Brainerd approached his 16-month cancer journey with “resilience, strength and courage.”

It was in the early stages of that odyssey that Brainerd won his first major award since the Tony Award in 1993: The Colorado Theatre Guild’s 2019 Henry Award (regrettably, not named after Markas) for costuming Theatre Aspen’s “Ragtime.” It was an award, Henry said, that meant the world to Brainerd.

In the final 10 days of his life, when Brainerd wasn’t always cognizant through his morphine moments, another award was on Brainerd’s mind. Henry recalls Brainerd sitting at edge of his bed at home while drinking from a sippy cup. “Kevin pushed the cup away and reached out his hands,” Henry said. “I asked him: ‘What do you want?’ And he looked me in the eye and said, ‘Hand me my Oscar!’ ”

When the pain softens, Henry hopes he can look back at moments like those and smile.

“I didn’t know I had everything,” Henry said. “But now I know I’ve lost everything.”

Memorial service planned for future

In addition to his parents, Brainerd is survived by his sister, Becky Casso, her husband, jazz saxophonist Carlo Casso, and their children, Michelle and Daniel; his brother, Rick Brainerd, his wife, Gayla, and their children, Lauren and Trey; and his brother, Stephen Brainerd, and his husband, David. Kevin is also survived by his beloved Cat, Zeb, and was preceded in death by a pair of notorious felines named Theodore and Clifford.

Price equates Brainerd to a splash of paint. A force of energy. “Kevin was mischievous in that what he presented to you was only the part he wanted you to see,” Price said. “Those of us who knew his heart delighted in knowing that he was a deeply feeling person and he would deflect kindness with his sometimes wry, Eeyore-like personality that belied his absolute attention to whatever anyone needed from him.”

Donations can be made in Brainerd’s  name to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network or Curious Theatre Company, where a memorial celebration will be held at a later date.

Senior Arts Journalist John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theatre critics by ‘American Theatre’ magazine and has been covering the Colorado theatre community since 2001. He is the founder of The Denver Actors Fund and was the recent recipient of Actor’s Equity Association’s Lucy Jordan Humanitarian Award. Reach him at culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Markas Henry says Curious Theatre’s 2013 production of ‘Maple and Vine’ was Kevin Brainerd’s sweet spot as a costume designer. ‘The 1950s section of that play, with Karen Slack and C. Kelly Leo (above) – that was his element,’ he said. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

KEVIN BRAINERD/Selected shows

Broadway

  • “She Loves Me,” Assistant to the Costume Designer
  • “Bells Are Ringing,” Assistant Costume Design
  • “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Assistant Costume Design
  • “All Shook Up,” Associate Costume Design
  • “Ring of Fire,” Associate Costume Design
  • “Dividing the Estate,” Associate Costume Design

Off-Broadway

  • “Queen Bee’s Last Stand,” Urban Stages, Costume Design
  • “The Sweepers,” Urban Stages, Costume Design
  • “Seven Rabbits on a Pole,” Urban Stages, Costume Design
  • “Conviction,” 59E59, Costume Design

Film

  • “A Beautiful Mind”
  • “The Mirror Has Two Faces”
  • “Ghost Dog”
  • “Made”
  • “Requiem for a Dream”
  • “Exit Wounds”

Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company

  • “Seminar”
  • “Crime and Punishment”

Curious Theatre Company

  • “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures”
  • “Detroit 67”
  • “Appropriate”
  • “Building the Wall”
  • The Elliot Plays: “The Happiest Song Plays Last,” “Water by the Spoonful” and “Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue”
  • “Sex With Strangers”
  • “Charles Ives Take Me Home”
  • “Lucky Me”
  • “Venus in Fur “
  • “Rancho Mirage”
  • “God of Carnage”
  • “Maple and Vine”
  • “Becky Shaw”
  • “Clybourne Park”
  • “Homebody/Kabul”
  • “Opus”

Colorado Shakespeare Festival

  • “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Phamaly Theatre Company

  • “James and the Giant Peach”

Maya Productions

  • “A Happy End”
  • “Conviction”

Theatre Aspen

  • “The 39 Steps”
  • “Avenue Q”
  • “Ragtime”
  • “Dear Edwina”
  • “Buyer & Cellar”
  • “The Cottage”
  • “Becky’s New Car”
  • “Annie”
  • “God of Carnage”
  • “Little Shop of Horrors” (twice)

Lake Dillon Theatre Company

  • “The Underpants”

Byers-Evans House Theatre

  • “A Doll’s House”

University of Colorado Boulder

  • “Little Women, the Musical”
  • “You Can’t Take It With You”
  • “Twelfth Night”
  • “Peter and the Starcatcher”
  • “Cloud 9”

Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2009 production of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

Newly eligible companies take emphatic bow at 2013 Henry Awards

177 CURIOUS

By John Moore
July 22, 2013

The Colorado Theatre Guild set out to put more Colorado in Colorado Theatre Guild’s 2013 Henry Awards, and tonight’s results certainly accomplished that goal. The question on many minds tomorrow, after the Guild had left so many of its own member companies out of the race for seven years, will be whether it perhaps overcorrected – all in one shot.

It was no surprise that the Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha” was the big winner of a refreshingly spread-out evening, pulling seven awards, including best musical and best direction for Rod Lansberry. Right behind was a mountain-company newcomer to the Henrys: The Lake Dillon Theatre Company pulled four wins, including three for “Kiss of the Spider-Woman.” Curious Theatre won best play for “The Brothers Size.”

In all, 11 companies and 16 shows won at least one award. (Here is the complete list of nominees and here is the complete list of all eligible shows.)

Theater companies from outside the metro area were eligible for Henry Awards for the first time, and all four trophies for best (male) actors went to regional theater companies:

*Jonathan Farwell, best actor in a play, OpenStage & Company’s “Amadeus,” Fort Collins
*Bob Moore, best supporting actor in a play, Lake Dillon Theatre’s “The Sunshine Boys”
*Joshua Blanchard, best actor in a musical, Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s “Kiss of the Spider-Woman”
*Thomas Rainey, best supporting actor in a musical, Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s “Kiss of the Spider-Woman

The Guild made great strides in expanding the eligible pool this year to a record 162 productions. That the 2013 winners represent a real swath of the Colorado theater community for the first time is the truest statement of community the Guild could make.

But one question tomorrow morning will be whether the Guild, in its noble effort to welcome statewide companies into the mix, inadvertently steered things in their favor. Because to make those outlying productions eligible, the Guild also expanded its pool of judges to those very communities. It takes six judges to make any production eligible for a Henry Award, which previously has made it logistically impossible to include regional theater companies in the pool. Now the outlying shows are judged by a mix of Denver-based judges who make the trek to see theater throughout the state, and reviewers and theater-lovers who live in the communities they now judge.

The natural, if uncomfortable, question might at least be asked: Were those judges predisposed to overly support the productions in their home areas? Or were the best theater performances in Colorado all living outside of the Denver area last year? Or is it maybe a little bit of both?

The eight women’s acting awards were more evenly distributed. It seemed a foregone conclusion that new Denver transplant SuCh (Celie) would win best actress in a musical for “The Color Purple” after she and castmate Ashlie-Amber Harris drew a mid-show standing ovation with their shattering live performance of the duet, “What About Love?”

This was easily the most powerhouse category of the night, including five amazing performances: Selah Grace (“Kiss of the Spider-Woman”), Norrell Moore (“Hair”), Megan Van De Hey (“Baby”), Kathi Wood “Little Shop of Horrors” and Brianna Firestone (“Sweet Charity”).

The Denver Center pulled two of the three remaining female acting awards: Jeanne Paulsen for “Romeo and Juliet” and Ruth Gottschall for “Sense and Sensibility, the Musical” (supporting actresses in a play and musical, respectively).

The other went to beloved local actress Laura Norman for the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Ghost-Writer.” Interestingly, Norman’s was the most contained performance among a fiery field filled with incendiary performances by Abby Apple Boes and Anne Oberbroeckling in “August: Osage County,” Rhonda Brown in “Red Hot Patriot: The Wit and Wisdom of Molly Ivins,” and Kim Staunton in “Fences.”

Prognosticators were kept guessing all night long, simply because the fields were so deep in so many categories. The fully loaded ensemble award went to Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair.”

On a night stuffed with surprises, one award that was no surprise at all was Curious Theatre winning the outstanding season by a company award. After all, it placed three of the five nominees in the “best play” category. What may come as a surprise is that this is the first time in eight years that Curious, whose mission is to stage only plays that are new to Denver, has ever won the best-season Henry award.


My video tribute to Ray Angel, Diane Beckoff, Harry Cruzan, Shana Dowdeswell, Diane Gadomski, Robert Garner, Angela Johnson, David Kristin, Will Marshall, Brook Millard, Adam Perkes and Linda Rae Wheeler. This served as the “memoriam” section of the Henry Awards.

The first-time hosts for the evening were GerRee Hinshaw and Stephen J. Burge, taking a lighthearted approach that kept the evening quickly moving. The hosts enlisted Eden Lane, Kirk Montgomery, Gloria Shanstrom and myself for a comic opening bit about whether there would — or should — be an opening number. (Of course there was one — “Show People” by the cast of the Arvada Center’s “Curtains.” That kind of made up for the most awkward moment of the night — when eventual Henry-winning best musical “Man of La Mancha,” for reasons both logistical and economic, could not perform live along with the other nominated best musicals. (Instead, a videotape was played of the song “Dulcinea”).

There were many fun small moments — such as the Curious Theatre husband-and-wife team of Chip Walton (“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”) and Dee Covington (“The Brothers Size”) going head-to-head for best director of a play. The winner was Bob Wells, who was honored for directing “The 39 Steps” for the Town Hall Arts Center. That was made sweeter when Wells reminded the crowd that he appeared in the first Arvada Center staging ever held in 1976.

It was also sweet to see a live performance of “On My Own” from Chaparral High School’s recent “Les Miserables.” The show was the first winner of the Denver Center’s new Bobby G Awards, honoring the best in high-school theater musical.

Chris Campbell gave an endearing speech after winning one of the two best-costume awards (for “Man of La Mancha”). She said: “In the words of Jack Benny, I don’t deserve this … but I have arthritis, too, and I don’t deserve that, either.”

A major change by the Guild was a last-minute decision to split the four design categories (costumes, scenic design, sound and lighting) into large budget and small budget tiers.

You couldn’t help but be moved by octogenarian Jonathan Farwell’s surprise win for playing Salieri in “Amadeus.” “I am astonished and humbled,” he told the crowd.

But I think for most people the highlight of the night had to be Jim Hunt winning the
Lifetime Achievement award. It was presented by his former acting student at Alameda High School, Rick Bernstein, who went on to found the Morrison Theatre Company and Miners Alley Playhouse. For more on that, scroll to the bottom of the page.


Members of the local theater community give their shout-outs to this year’s field of 2013 Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award nominees. One comes all the way from Poland.

Running list of winners:

Outstanding season:
CURIOUS THEATRE COMPANY

Outstanding Musical
“MAN OF LA MANCHA” Arvada Center

Outstanding Play
“THE BROTHERS SIZE” Curious Theatre Company

Outstanding Direction of a Musical
ROD LANSBERRY “Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Outstanding Musical Direction
DAVID NEHLS
“Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Outstanding Direction of a Play
ROBERT WELLS “The 39 Steps” – Town Hall Arts Center

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play
JONATHAN FARWELL
“Amadeus” – OpenStage Theatre & Company

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play
LAURA NORMAN
“Ghost-Writer” – Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company

Special Award: Lifetime Achievement in Theatre:
JIM HUNT

Outstanding New Play:
“SWEET TOOTH” Buntport Theater Company

Special Award: Outstanding Regional Theatre:
THEATREWORKS, Colorado Springs

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical:
JOSHUA BLANCHARD
“Kiss of the Spider Woman”- Lake Dillon Theatre Company

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical
SuCh
“The Color Purple” – Aurora Fox Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play
BOB MOORE
“The Sunshine Boys” – Lake Dillon Theatre Company

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play
JEANNE PAULSEN
“Romeo & Juliet” – Denver Center Theatre Company

Special award:
COLORADO STATE THESPIANS Advocate for Theatre Arts Education

Outstanding Ensemble
“HAIR”
Town Hall Arts Center

Outstanding Choreography
KITTY SKILLMAN HILSABECK
“Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Outstanding Scenic Design, small budget:
ABSTER PRODUCTIONS “August: Osage County” – Abster Productions

Outstanding Scenic Design, large budget
BRIAN MALLGRAVE “Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Outstanding Costume Design: Small budget
LINDA MORKEN
“The Wizard of Oz” – Boulder’s Dinner Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design, large budget:
CHRIS CAMPBELL
“Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Special Award:
Outstanding Volunteer, Randy Dipner, TheatreWorks, Colorado Springs

Outstanding Lighting Design Small budget
JACOB M. WELCH
“Kiss of the Spider Woman” – Lake Dillon Theatre Company

Outstanding Lighting Design: Large budget
SHANNON MCKINNEY
“Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Outstanding Sound Design: Large budget
BRIAN FREELAND
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” – Curious Theatre

Outstanding Sound Design: Small budget
ADAM STONE
“Wake” – Buntport Theater

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

THOMAS RAINEY
“Kiss of the Spider Woman” – Lake Dillon Theatre Company

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical:

RUTH GOTTSCHALL
“Sense & Sensibility The Musical” – Denver Center Theatre Company

Excerpt of Jim Hunt nomination letter:

Full disclosure: I nominated Jim Hunt for the 2013 Life Achievement Award. I leave you with an excerpt from the nomination letter I submitted to the Guild on Jim’s behalf:

Your requirements for this Life Achievement Award seem written in the very acknowledgement of Jim Hunt’s career:

The nominee must show a significant contribution to the Colorado theater community: Jim Hunt has been an actor, director, teacher and coach in the Denver area for 50 years, dating (in my mind at least) back to a 1964 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opposite Nick Nolte for the Little Theatre of the Rockies. He hasn’t taken much of a break since.

Jim graduated from Westminster High School (1961) and UNC (1965). He taught theater at Alameda High School for eight years, and at Arvada West for 8 1/2. His students have included Rick Bernstein, who founded Morrison Theatre Company and Miners Alley Playhouse. He directed new Arvada Center executive director Phil Sneed as a young man in “South Pacific” at the Arvada Center in 1977.

He has supported efforts promote Colorado theater in innumerable ways, including the often-thankless job of directing of the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards for many years.

The nominee must show at least ten years of active participation in theater in Colorado:
Ten? How about 50?

The nominee must show involvement in many aspects of theater:
Teaching
Acting
Coaching
Hosting
Volunteering
Boosterism

The nominee may show involvement with more than one theater:
Jim Hunt has performed and directed at dozens of local venues, including the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (for the first time) starting in 1974. He was part of the very first production at the Arvada Center when it opened in 1975, and he remained part of the inaugural company there through 1978. He has maintained a pretty good mix between acting and directing ever since.

Jim boldly faced down a serious case of stage-fright in the late 1990s by taking improv theater classes. Since 2001, he has been back on the boards everywhere from the Denver Center to Colorado Shakes to Curious Theatre to the Victorian Playhouse to Paragon to Conundrum to Modern Muse to The Avenue to Town Hall to the Aurora Fox to Country Dinner Playhouse.

His crowning achievement may have been in Paragon Theatre’s “The Caretaker” in 2006. Or maybe it was In 2009, when Jim won the Denver Post Ovation Award for playing “Her Father” in Curious Theatre’s “Eurydice.” Or maybe it was playing Bull McCabe in the final production ever staged at the Vic, “The Field.” You can’t say because he just keeps topping himself.

Jim remains active, vital, and working for a wide range of theaters. Just last year alone, at the age of 68, he performed in Boulder Ensemble’s “The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde”; Lake Dillon’s “Sylvia”; Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”; Vintage’s “Becky’s New Car”; and Backstage’s “A Christmas Carol.” That’s five productions for five different companies. In a single year! (He won the 2012 True West Award for this accomplishment). What actor – of any age – can ever have claimed that? Well how about Jim Hunt … the year before? In 2011, he won the Ovation Award for Victorian’s “The Field,” and also appeared in Lake Dillon’s “Seascape,” Paragon’s “A Lie of the Mind,” Boulder Ensemble’s “Mauritius,” and Town Hall Arts Center’s “The Wizard of Oz.” Already in 2013, he’s been in Boulder Ensemble’s “Ghost-Writer” and “Bach at Leipzig,” and Lake Dillon’s “The Sunshine Boys.”

Stay with me: That means in the past 30 months alone, Jim Hunt has performed in 13 productions … for eight different theater companies. … And did I mention … he turns 70 in December!

How has he been able to keep it going? “It’s my demon,” he told me once in an interview. “It’s my necessity.”

 

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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):

My 2012 journo year in review: Highlights from a year on the cheap, er, brink

By John Moore
Jan. 1, 2013

A professional and personal look back at the year just past. (The unemployed year, that is):

 

Favorite writings:

Eden Lane. Photo by John Moore.

Eden Lane. Photo by John Moore.

1. Eden Lane: The first transgender journalist on mainstream TV opens up about her life and challenges (see bonus extract below)

2. Personal blog: My stoma: To Die and Live in L.A.

3. A look back at the era of yellow journalism, when The Denver Post was known as “The Bucket of Blood”

4. Iddo Netanyahu interview: Is there “A Happy End” for our troubled world?

5. My first-ever byline in the New York Times: For the Colorado Rockies, a four-man rotation by committee

6. That’s one way to recover from gut surgery: Visiting 30 Parks in 30 Days

7. John Moore and Mark Collins: Two ex-theater critics, sitting around having coffee

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

John Hutton. Photo by John Moore.

8. Actor John Hutton on Spielberg, “Lincoln” and on being invited to the party

9. What companies can learn from the reinvention of Curious Theatre Company

10. Launch of the 2012 True West Theater Awards

11. Remembering Michael Jackson as “Thriller” turns 30 (and I interview Quincy Jones)

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

And … just for fun:

My house under attack: A blog not at all for the squirrely

Some creative writing: My short story, “-30′-

 

Videos:

Five-part documentary: “The Making of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”

 

Accepting a Henry Award for journalistic excellence

Amy Board: 2012 Colorado Walk for Hemophilia

The wedding of Dan and Gary

Three minutes with … Pam Grier!

Launch party for “After the Darklights” video series

Phamaly’s Jeremy Palmer wins Denver Foundation volunteer award

Creede Rep says goodbye to Maurice Lamee

 

An added bonus: The deleted Eden Lane excerpt:

Sometimes you get lucky to find remarkable people who trust you to tell their remarkable stories. And, almost every time, some of the most remarkable parts get cut out from publication. Here’s my favorite part of the Eden Lane story. It got distilled into a few sentences in the version of the story that got published.:

 

    Sometimes the best way to know a person is through the person who loves them. Lane has been legally married for more than 10 years to a man named Don who never knew a gay person in his life until a fellow serviceman came out to him in the Air Force. His first thought: “Is he the same person he was two seconds ago? He was, of course. So I said, ‘OK, fine.’ ”

But it says much about the world we still live in that Lane’s husband cannot talk openly about his love for his wife — while also publicly revealing his last name.

The reason, Lane said, has nothing to do with shame or embarrassment. “It has to do with a safety concern for our daughter in high school,”  she said.

Because high schools still have Bunsen burners.

“I decided a long time ago there would always have to be a certain sense of guardedness,” her husband said. “I am protective to the point of overbearing. That was a decision I made early on, because I love my wife.”

Lane graduated from high school early and went off to New York, where she would later perform in one of the seminal productions in Broadway history. She doesn’t claim that experience on her resume, or her college degrees, because she did so under a name that no longer exists.

When Lane completed her gender realignment surgery, a process she finds as interesting as the details of your hip replacement, she took on her new name. She says Eden Lane “is both a way to honor my grandmother, and part of the name that I was given at birth.”

But she never tells that birth name, she said, “because it feeds into that idea that the identity I have now is somehow false.”

More than a decade ago, she moved to Colorado and began her TV career contributing to both the longtime PBS gay-issues news program Colorado Outspoken and CBS News’ Logo channel. Lane met her husband crossing paths at a 2000 charity benefit for Children’s Hospital she was covering. He was by then working in automotive sales management.

Dating for any transgendered person is fraught. The dating pool is much smaller. The danger is much higher. Lane was cynical at first, and Don knows why.  “Her cynicism was earned,” he said. “It has both protected her — and kept her safe.”

They each faced moments of truth — Eden had to tell him her story; he had to tell her he was a divorced man with joint custody of a toddler.  His opportunity came when Lane’s car broke down, and she needed help.

“I had decided that no matter who I was seeing, I wasn’t going to introduce them to my daughter until I felt some connectivity with that person,” her husband said. What better moment than to say, “Well, this is my daughter … Can you watch her while I work on your car?”

Lane never knows whether new people look at her and instantly know she’s different. She’s an evidently tall, buxom blonde who quotes Lenora Claire by saying: “I am more ample-size than sample-size.”

But do people know when they see her? Some do. Her husband didn’t.

Entertainment reporter Kirk Montgomery from KUSA Channel 9 did not know until someone from a focus group mentioned it, “and I spit out my coffee,” he said. I had no idea, and frankly it didn’t matter at all — I just felt like the last one to the party.”

Last month, Lane interviewed actor Ben Dicke, who was seriously injured just before the opening performance of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Aurora Fox. Dicke watched Lane’s piece with his parents, telling them first, “I have a secret to tell you about Eden after the show.” When he told them, they were a bit baffled, these churchgoing folks who grew up in rural Kansas. “All they saw was someone who is successful, smart, well-spoken and in the spotlight,” Dicke said.

Lane has never made her medical history a secret. “To me, secrets are poison,” she said. But when it comes to a romantic entanglement, “there comes a point where you have to discern whether they know, because they deserve to know your history,” she said. “You certainly are not trying to fool anyone.”

But, she greatly understated: “Not every man can handle that sort of thing.”

Lane chose to tell her husband in what they now fondly call their “Taco Bell drive-through moment.”  She chose there because it’s a safe place. “You can get out of the car and get away if you need to,” she said.

She didn’t need to.

“For me, I was always looking  more at the person, and I liked what I saw,” her husband said. “I asked myself, ‘Now that I know the back story, do I still care about her?’ And the answer was yes.”

In the end, he decided, “People are people, and love is love.”

They have lost some friends. “But,” his wife adds, “we’ve made many more.”

 

A few favorite photos from 2012

Rose and Jim Engagement Shoot. Photo by John Moore.

Rose and Jim Engagement Shoot. Photo by John Moore.

 

My niece, Aaliyah. Photo by John Moore.

My niece, Aaliyah. Photo by John Moore.

 

Rhonda Brown on opening night of "Picasso at the Lapin Agile." Photo by John Moore.

Actor Rhonda Brown on opening night of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” Photo by John Moore.

 

Ben Dicke on opening night of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" ... my favorite photo of the year ,

Ben Dicke on opening night of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” … my favorite photo of the year ,

 

 

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

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

By John Moore

Nov. 4, 2012

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

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

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

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

And Montour-Larson wanted no part of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So … have they had that backward all this time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The reinvention of Curious Theatre Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new Curious Theatre Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned

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

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

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

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

Now through Dec. 15: Donald Margulies’ intimate, character-focused drama is about a couple at a crossroads. Sarah, a photojournalist recently injured while on assignment in Iraq, returns home to Manhattan, where her partner, James, anxiously tries to nurse her back to health. But despite James efforts to keep her home, Sarah never feels completely comfortable staying in one place. The play was nominated in 2010 for a Tony Award for best new play. Directed by Christy Montour-Larson. The cast includes Michael Morgan, David Russell, Tara Falk and Devon James.

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

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

 

Curious Theatre: 2012 artistic company

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

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