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.’

Donor launches $10,000 Brenda Billings Match Campaign

Last night, The Denver Actors Fund announced a $10,000 gift from an anonymous donor in memory of the non-profit organization’s late president, Brenda Billings. It represents the largest gift in the nearly 3-year history of the organization, which provides financial and other relief to local theatre artists in situational medical need.

The announcement was made Tuesday at a benefit concert honoring Billings’ memory at the downtown Hard Rock Cafe.

IMG_6219The donor’s wish is for the gift to be the launch of an ongoing matching campaign to raise another $10,000 in Billings’ memory.

The announcement was made at Tuesday’s concert by Will Barnette, Billings’ son-in-law and the newest member of the Denver Actors Fund’s Board of Directors.

Barnette said Billings and the Denver Actors Fund were a perfect match. “This is one of the most literal ways that she was helping people,” Barnette said. “She was doing that her entire life, but the DAF was such a great way for her to reach out and help people directly in need.”

Billings was also the co-Artistic Director at Miners Alley Playhouse and a longtime contributor to Colorado’s non-profit community. She died April 13 at age 57.

Give to the the Brenda Billings Memorial Match

Anyone wishing to contribute to the Brenda Billings Memorial Match Campaign is encouraged to give by clicking this link.

Tuesday’s concert, titled “Be Brave,” featured songs from musicals directed by Billings and performed by 30 returning cast members from Hair, Hairspray, The Fantasticks, Godspell, Songs For a New World and Pump Boys and Dinettes. Members of the Billings family sang. Billings’ nephew, Tucker Worley (Mamma Mia national tour) and Denver School of the Arts graduate Jordan Geiger (Peter and the Starcatcher) returned for special appearances.

The evening equally benefited the Denver Actors Fund and Miners Alley Playhouse. The organizations each raised $2,414 from ticket sales and on-site donations. The Denver Actors Fund earned an additional $1,400 from a silent auction to upcoming local theatre performances that were bundled into four silent-auction packages.

The donating companies were: And Toto Too, Arvada Center, BDT Stage, Bug Theatre, Buntport Theater, Curious Theatre, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Edge Theatre, Equinox Theatre, Firehouse Theatre, Ignite Theatre, Lost & Found Productions,  Miners Alley Playhouse, Paper Cat Films, Town Hall Arts Center and Vintage Theatre.

Read our tribute to Brenda Billings

The $3,814 raised by the Denver Actors Fund at Tuesday’s concert will be applied to the $10,000 match, leaving $6,186 left to be raised in the name of Brenda Billings.

The milestone donation brings the total raised by the Denver Actors Fund to more than $100,000 in less than three years of existence. Already, $45,000 has been distributed to actors, directors, stage managers and more facing immediate medical need. In addition, volunteers have logged more than 200 hours of service providing a variety of necessary services such as meals and transportation.

For additional information, email denveractorsfund@gmail.com.

 

Upstart Crow announces death of longtime company member Jim Fogelberg

FOGELBERG

Jim Fogelberg as Tom Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie.”

Boulder’s Upstart Crow has announced the death of longtime actor, director and board member Jim Fogelberg.

The company issued the following statement:

“We lost Jim in a traffic accident on October 8. In his decades with The Upstart Crow, Jim played many roles, most recently as Caesar in ‘Caesar and Cleopatra.’ He has directed shows, served on our board of directors and worked behind the scenes for many years.

He was looking forward to directing ‘The Madwoman of Chaillot’ in May.

We miss you, Jim. A star has gone out in our sky.”

upstart

Colorado theater schedules, however you like them:

All currently running theater productions

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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):

Terry Rhoads, “Denver’s leading man,” dies at 61

Beth Malone as Ado Annie and Terry Rhoads as Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma” at the Country Dinner Playhouse.

Beth Malone as Ado Annie and Terry Rhoads as Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma” at the Country Dinner Playhouse.

By John Moore

25092_1355062070216_3439262_nTerry Rhoads may have moved on from Denver years ago, but his impact on Colorado theater was enduring.

Rhoads played the leading man at dozens of Country Dinner Playhouse shows. He was the undisputed star for much of producer Bill McHale’s heyday in the 1980s before moving on to a significant career in TV, music, film and commercials in California. Last year, he appeared in the Anthony Hopkins film “Hitchcock,” as Jack Russell.

Rhoads died yesterday of amyloidosis, a rare disease of unknown cause. It occurs when an abnormal protein produced by cells in your bone marrow builds up in your organs and tissue. He was 61.

His wife, actor Lise Simms, is telling friends that Rhoads’ transition was beautiful, “and to celebrate his life.” They lived together in Encino, Calif.

“We lost an amazing talent and spirit today,” said fellow Country Dinner Playhouse actor Patty Holland-Trout.

Rhoads started with Bill Oakley’s melodrama ensemble at the former Heritage Square Opera House and came to the Country Dinner Playhouse as a Barnstormer — the actor-waiters who performed the musical pre-show. He starred in shows like “Fiddler on the Roof” and dozens more. He also starred in shows at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre.

Terry played the leading role in the short-lived sitcom “Living in Captivity” and was the host of HGTV’s “Desperate Spaces.” He appeared in TV shows including “Murphy Brown,” “Seinfeld,” “Party of Five,” “7th Heaven,” “The Norm Show,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Friends” “Yes, Dear,” “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “Ally McBeal,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Navy NCIS,” “Phil of the Future,” “House M.D.,” “What I Like About You,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Hannah Montana,” “Bones” and others.

Rhoads made a career of playing supporting roles in California, but here he was Denver’s leading man.

“Even when he had a small role, like when he played Sonny in ‘Grease,’ he made it big,” said fellow actor Brian Smith, who remembers Rhoads as a devoted Broncos fan who was so nervous during games that he could never sit down.

“He was the only actor I know who Bill McHale ever let ad lib,” Smith said, “because he knew he could control it.”

Lise Simms and Terry Rhoads returned to Colorado in 2008 for a Country Dinner Playhouse reunion. Photo by John Moore.

Lise Simms and Terry Rhoads returned to Colorado in 2008 or a Country Dinner Playhouse reunion. Photo by John Moore.

Rhoads was born Dec. 31, 1951, in Phoenix and graduated from Central High School in Scottsdale. He is the father of a son, Tony, and daughter, Sarah.

Smith remembers among Rhoads’ many highlights was starring in “They’re Playing Our Song,” opposite his wife, and as Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma.”

“But he was amazing in ‘Me and My Girl,’ ” Smith said. “It just became a one-man show show. He was hilarious one moment and tearing your heart out the next. Everything he did was perfect.”

Last year, Rhoads appeared on an episode of the TV Series “Better with You,” and appeared in seven episodes of “Better Off Ted” (as Chet). He released a CD of songs titled “Lean.”

Rhoads returned to Colorado in 2008 to join more than 170 former actors, artisans and loyal customers of the Country Dinner Playhouse. Attendees came all the way from Spain for an emotional reunion that spanned all 37 years of the barn’s storied history.


Rhoads’ Expedia commercial

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Terry Rhoads, Linda Suttle and Marcus Waterman at the Country Dinner Playhouse reunion in 2008. Photo by John Moore.

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund
If you could not attend your fundraiser tomorrow, you can still help get us off the ground with your donation. Just send your tax-deductible check (ith our humble thanks) to:

Denver Actors Fund
4594 Osceola St.
Denver, CO 80212

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

Nick Sugar starred with Jenny Hecht in a 2004 production of "Bat Boy, the Musical" for Theatre Group.

Nick Sugar starred with Jenny Hecht in a 2004 production of “Bat Boy, the Musical” for Theatre Group.

 

By John Moore
Feb. 26, 2013

Adam Perkes was expected to star in the irreverent musical "Bat Boy," through March 9 at the Bug Theater opposite Rachelle Wood.

Adam Perkes died after the opening weekend of “Bat Boy.” He is shown with Rachelle Wood.

No one can ever know for certain what the “right” thing to do is when faced with sudden and unexpected tragedy. But after a period of reflection, the Equinox Theatre Company has decided the best way for it to honor Adam Perkes, the late star of its current staging of “Bat Boy, the Musical,” is to resume the production that opened just four days before Perkes’ death.

And in a remarkable display of communion within the Colorado theater community, acclaimed theater artist Nick Sugar has agreed to join the aggrieved cast and step back into one of his signature roles.

“I think it is important to honor Adam, and his struggle,” said Sugar. “I don’t think anyone should ever have that much pain.”

Sugar won a 2004 Westword Best of Denver Award for his performance with Theatre Group as the misunderstood half-human, half-bat boy named Edgar. Five years later, Sugar directed an irreverent staging of the tabloid-inspired musical for Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center, starring Mark Lively.

Perkes was found dead Feb. 20 in a Glenwood Springs hotel room, after what authorities say appears to have been an overdose of drugs and alcohol. The production was placed on indefinite hiatus, but the cast and creative team have decided to return with performances on Fridays and Saturday nights March 8-9 and 15-16.

“If we walked away now, we would only look back on this whole experience with nothing but pain in our hearts,” said Equinox producer Deb Flomberg. “Instead, by coming together and creating art, we are finding a way to triumph over that pain.”

Perkes’ father, Brent, expressed both delight and relief today on hearing the news that “Bat Boy” will live on. “We were feeling bad about that, so my family will be happy to hear that,” he said after his son’s funeral service.

During the ceremony, Perkes’ uncle, David Bowman, read a message that Adam’s mother, Brenda, wanted delivered specifically to the “Bat Boy” family:

Adam’s family wants wants you to know, and he wants you to know, that he was totally committed to finishing the musical, and he was totally committed to everyone involved with it. He had every intention of seeing it through, despite the fact that he was really struggling with his illness. His trip to the Hot Springs was to try to relax and get a grip on the severe (panic) attacks that have been plaguing him. He simply made a poor decision in trying to stop an attack. Adam would be, and is, deeply sorry.”

Exiting the church, Brenda Perkes stopped and waved to the section of the church where Adam’s theater friends were seated. “Thank you for coming,” she silently mouthed as she walked out.

Flomberg and director Colin Roybal agonized over the decision to continue the show, then decided, with input from the cast, that if “Bat Boy” were to return, it would be best to have an accomplished actor with previous experience in the role. Sugar has won 10 Denver Post Ovation Awards and five Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards as actor, director or choreographer.

“He’s incredibly good at what he does,” Flomberg said.

sugarquote

Sugar understands all too well what the Perkes and Equinox families are going through. Sugar has lost three siblings, two in their 20s. His father died in 2000, his mother two months ago on Christmas day. And just last night, he had to put down his canine companion of nearly 15 years, Zucci.

“Anyone who has ever loved and lost knows that grief,” Sugar said. “I think it’s going to be a very healing process for all of us.”

Flomberg approached Sugar even though he has no personal affiliation with her small theater company. But Sugar, she said, understands the importance of the time-honored theater maxim: “The show must go on.”

“He doesn’t know us, and he doesn’t know me,” Flomberg said. “He’s used to working in bigger theaters with bigger budgets, so for him to step into our world and help us — it speaks to his giving nature, and it speaks to the giving nature of this community as a whole. The theater community has proven time and again that we are here to support each other.”

Sugar also expressed a desire to help in any way he can the two dozen or so cast and crew who are putting on “Bat Boy,” including Flomberg, who, as producer, had a significant financial investment in the show.

“This whole company of artists is hurting,” said Sugar, “and as a fellow artist, I feel an honor and a duty to do whatever I can to help them.”

Flomberg admitted it is with a sense of both awe and trepidation that she goes back into rehearsals tonight. No matter who assumed the role of Edgar, it will be impossible for anyone on her team to separate the character from the actor who originally played the role, if only for one weekend.

In the story, the town veterinarian brings the Bat Boy to his home, where he is accepted as a member of the family and taught to act like a “normal” boy. But in a wink at “Frankenstein,” the narrow-minded people of the small Virginia town eventually turn on him. The vet’s daughter (played by Rachelle Wood) sings the lyrics, “He never knew what he was worth. I could not stop his fall. But in his precious hours on Earth, he taught us all: Let go the fears to which you cling. And through your tears, you’ll hear him sing.”

Flomberg quoted those very words at Perkes’ wake on Saturday night.

“There are very close parallels between Edgar and Adam,” Flomberg said. “The message of the show is about a young man who is rejected by society and is ultimately very alone. In essence, that was Adam, too.”

Moving forward does not exactly feel right, she said. But moving forward with Sugar does not exactly feel wrong.

“It’s exciting, in a way,” she said. “It’s flattering that he would do this.”

Perkes will be buried beside his infant sister Natasha in Hyde Park, Utah, on Saturday, March 2.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made in Perkes’ name to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) at 1100 Filmore St., Denver, 80206.

Equinox’s “Bat Boy, the Musical”: Ticket information

Showtimes: No performances March 1-2; then 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays March 8-9 and 15-16

Location: At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St.

Information and ticket sales: 720-984-0781 or the Bug Theatre’s home page

Nick Sugar directed the Town Hall Arts Center's 2009 staging of "Bat Boy," starring Mark Lively.  A 2005 production in Dillon starred Joshua Blanchard.

Nick Sugar directed the Town Hall Arts Center’s 2009 staging of “Bat Boy,” starring Mark Lively. A 2005 production in Dillon starred Joshua Blanchard.

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Death of actor Adam Perkes: ‘He had so much left to share’

Adam Perkes was expected to star in the irreverent musical "Bat Boy," through March 9 at the Bug Theatre opposite Rachelle Wood.

Adam Perkes was expected to star in the irreverent musical “Bat Boy,” through March 9 at the Bug Theatre opposite Rachelle Wood.

 

By John Moore
Feb. 21, 2013

Adam Perkes, a gifted young stage actor best known for his comic swagger on stage and his deep sensitivity off it, has died at age 27, the Garfield County coroner confirmed today.

Adam Perkes

Adam Perkes

In a recent playbill, Perkes used the space normally reserved for actors to talk about their own stage accomplishments as an opportunity to remind anyone in his audience “that all good things stem from simple acts of love.” He went on to express a deep sadness for the victims of the Aurora cinema shootings.

“The next time you feel like the world done you wrong,” he wrote, “eat a glazed donut.”

Perkes was found dead at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the bathtub of a room at the Hot Springs Lodge in Glenwood Springs. Police Chief Terry Wilson told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent there were indications that Perkes had consumed alcohol and pills before he died, and that foul play is not suspected. Wilson said he is awaiting a coroner’s report to determine if the death will be ruled as suicide or accidental.

Perkes was the star of the Equinox Theatre’s current staging of “Bat Boy, the Musical,” which had been scheduled to run through March 9 at the Bug Theatre. An announcement from the company will be made soon on whether the rest of the run will happen.

“My first thought was how much of a loss this is for the entire theater community, because he had so much left to share,” said Equinox Theatre Company producer Deb Flomberg.

The family has announced that a funeral service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 27) at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 9277 W. Dartmouth Place in Lakewood. A viewing will be held at the same address before the service from noon to 1 p.m.

Perkes, also a gifted pianist, was nominated for a 2010 Denver Post Ovation Award as best supporting actor in a comedy for his performance in the Miners Alley Playhouse’s “Habeas Corpus” in Golden. A bespectacled Perkes was remarkable in playing a doctor’s grotesquely awkward – and libidinous – son.

Kestrel Burley, Adam Perkes and Theresa Reid in the Miners Alley Playhouse's "Habeas Corpus" in 2010.

Kestrel Burley, Adam Perkes and Theresa Reid in the Miners Alley Playhouse’s “Habeas Corpus” in 2010.

Wrote Juliet Wittman of Westword: “Where did they get the expectorating Adam Perkes? He cuts loose only once or twice as Dennis, but when he does, his lunacy is inspired.” Added Craig Williamson of the North Denver Tribune: “Adam Perkes captures the pimple-faced hypochondriac son with an appropriate amount of whining and sniveling.”

Perkes also played Leonard Irving in Equinox’s production of “In the Next Room, or The Vibrator play,” and as Modred in Performance Now’s “Camelot” at the Lakewood Cultural Center.

More recently, Perkes took on the monster role of the barber Pirelli in the Ignite Theatre’s ambitious and bloody “Sweeney Todd.” In his program bio, Perkes said he was “tickled red” to be playing the role in one of his favorite musicals.

His bio goes on to say:

“Acting is perhaps his second favorite activity in all of London and he is grateful and proud to be able to be given the opportunity. He would like to thank his friends for their emotional support and his family for keeping him alive. Adam would like to remind his audience that all good things stem from simple acts of love. His heart and prayers go out to everyone directly (and indirectly) affected by The Century 16 shootings. Enjoy the show and next time you feel like the world done you wrong, eat a glazed donut.”

“This is a crushing shock,” said Boni McIntyre, who played Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd.” “I can’t seem to stop the tears right now.”

McIntyre said Perkes was the most patient actor she has ever met. “He would sit through hours of rehearsal for his one moment to shine,” she said. “He never complained, and he was always spot-on and hilarious. He was someone you wanted to be around because he had such great energy. The twinkle that was always in his eye seemed irrepressible.”

Theater blogger David Marlowe wrote of Perkes’ performance in “Sweeney Todd”:  “Adam Perkes’ Pirelli is yet another in a string of superbly crafted manic characterizations.” Added Michael Mulhern of BroadwayWorld.com: “Adam Perkes stole the show with his over-the-top, hilarious interpretation of Pirelli.”

Adam Michael Perkes was born Nov. 25, 1985, to parents Brent and Brenda Sue, and was the valedictorian of his graduating class at Bear Creek High School. “His commencement speech had us all on the floor at Red Rocks,” said Connie Helsley, owner of the Heritage Square Music Hall in Golden and mother to one of Perkes’ close high-school friends. He will be so missed.”

Perkes went on to graduate from the University of Colorado-Boulder with honors from the English department specializing in creative writing.

Recently, Perkes submitted an audition tape to the Starz/Encore Network for an upcoming reality show. Here’s how he described himself: “Generally, people like me. I have pretty good fashion sense … and I look really good in hats.” (See video below.)

Flomberg said Perkes was particularly relishing the opportunity to play the Bat Boy because it was one of his first opportunities to play a leading role in the Denver theater community. That – and because the job got him recently featured in the infamous Weekly World News tabloid. “Bat Boy Spotted in Denver Theatre,” the headline screamed.

“My nipples have been featured in a tabloid,” Perkes wrote on his Facebook page. “I have reached the top.”

“Bat Boy” is an irreverent musical inspired by the very same tabloid’s account of a half boy/half bat creature discovered in a cave near Hope Falls, W.V. In the story, the town veterinarian takes the Bat Boy into his home as a member of the family — until the narrow-minded people of the town turn on him.

Wrote “The Playwright Priest,” Patrick Dorn: “Perkes is uncanny as Bat Boy. His character arc and transformation from a terrified cave creature to a Milton-esque superman/monster is phenomenal.”

Perkes was raised Mormon and often wrote with equal parts cleverness, humor and poignance about his life and personal struggles on Facebook. In one section, he teases God for not making him a lesbian. “I’m deeply disappointed by my sexual interest in men,” he wrote. During Facebok’s recent “Doppelganger Week,” Perkes replaced his profile picture with that of actor Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”).

On a more serious note, Perkes quotes Oscar Wilde in his “about me” description, saying, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

Perkes is survived by his parents, siblings, Skyler James (23), Chorus Ann (15), Charity Rose (12) and Sean David (8); grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. He was preceded in death by his sister, Natasha.

“The family will greatly miss his dramatic flair and sharp wit,” Perkes’ funeral-home obituary says. “Adam was, and is, greatly loved by many. He will be deeply missed until we meet again.”

Perkes will be buried beside his infant sister Natasha in Hyde Park, Utah, on Saturday, March 2.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made in Perkes’ name to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) at
1100 Filmore St., Denver, 80206.

 

Adam Perkes’ audition video Starz/Encore:


Adam Perkes submitted this video to apply to be on an upcoming road trip reality show. In it, he explains that he normally has “gorgeous blonde, curly hair,” but that he shaved it to star in the Equinox Theatre’s current production of “Bat Boy, the Musical.”

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Sudden death of singer Angela Johnson has Northern Colorado reeling

Mikeal Macbeth has created this this video montage of Angela Johnson performances. Used by permission.

 

angelaquote2

By John Moore
Feb. 4, 2013

Though she was just a young woman, Angela Johnson was known as “the queen of community theater” in Northern Colorado. She was a classically trained vocalist who accepted any role given to her “happily and joyfully,” her friend and vocal coach Jalyn Webb said Monday night.

Angela Johnson. Photo courtesy Jayln Webb.

Angela Johnson. Photo courtesy Jayln Webb.

Friends far and wide are reeling from the shocking news that Johnson died overnight in her sleep Sunday. She was 34.

Johnson was known for posting positive “quote of the day” online affirmations. “She was the kind of person everybody aspired to be,” said Webb. “She was truly without a single thread of malice in her body.” Echoed friend Mickie Stevens in a Facebook post: “It’s impossible to comprehend the sudden and unexplainable loss of such a beautiful soul, but I do know that her singing, acting, cross-stitching, pirate celebrating, and yes, dancing, will live on in (our) memories.”

Johnson loved singing, acting and every other aspect of theater performance. She performed or worked with most every company in Northern Colorado, most recently as a box-office worker at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown.

Of all the companies she performed with, including the Loveland Community Theater,  Jesters Dinner Theater, Front Range Music Theatre, Union Colony Dinner Theatre and Up in Lights Productions, her work with the Loveland Opera Theatre dating to 2006 was probably most most special to her. Angela had two sides of her to her theatrical career, and with the Loveland Opera Theatre, she got to fully explore both. Angela was a performer and  administrative assistant to executive director Juliana Bishop Hoch, who calls Angela “the backbone of the company.” Hoch taught Angela as a vocal student for 10 years before hiring her on staff.

“She helped me with details of running the business and brainstorming ideas,” said Hoch, citing Johnson’s idea for a sold-out “Everybody Loves Puccini” gala. “We worked together as a dynamic team and there is a huge hole in my heart now that she is gone.”

On Thursday, Hoch announced that the Loveland Opera Company’s upcoming production of “La Boheme” (Feb. 15-24) will be dedicated to Angela. Hoch called her voice “angelic” and gorgeous.

“As long as I live, I will never forget her hysterical rendition of ‘As We Stumble Along’ from ‘The Drowsy Chaperone,’ which she performed at an LOT gala. It brought the house down. … We have lost a great friend, performer and talent in our musical community.”

Angela Johnson was born March 9, 1978, into a performing family. She is the daughter of Judy Johnson, a piano teacher, and father Murell Johnson, a music teacher. He taught high-school band and choir for nine years in Utah before moving to Colorado, where he has since participated in many musical events himself, from church choirs to high-school musical productions.

Angela’s  sister, Shauna, is the technical director at Candlelight, where Neal is a sound technician. Another brother, Craig, also performed in community theater before starting his own family.

“With my parents’ backgrounds, one can only imagine the environment my siblings and I grew up in,” Neal Johnson said. “Music was not a part of our lives — it was our lives. We all participated in music in school in one facet or another, spanning from all-state choir to high-school musicals to multiple state marching-band championships.”

Angela was an integral part of it all, Neal said, including being a drum major for the Loveland High School marching band. That began the family’s 14-year marching-band campaign, he said.

“We still sing as a family to this day,” Neal added. “You should hear our six-part harmony of ‘Happy Birthday.’ ”

Johnson, a mezzo soprano, graduated from Loveland High in 1996 and the University of Northern Colorado’s College of Music in 2000. One of her favorite on-stage roles was as Tzeitel in the Union Colony Dinner Theatre’s 2008 production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“What a sweet, gentle, loving person,” Cathy Monroe-Salaymeh, former owner of the Union Colony Dinner Theatre, wrote on Facebook.

“She was just a really sharp, invested, funny woman,” added Webb.

Johnson had a great fondness or the Up in Lights youth theater academy in Loveland. She is featured in a promotional video (posted at the top of this page) in which she espouses the merits of a company that allows young people to spread their joy for musical theater.

There is no word yet on a cause of death.

Services will be held as follows:

Thursday, Feb. 7, 5-7 p.m.: Visitation at Kibbey-Fishburn Funeral Home, 1103 Lincoln Ave., Loveland

Friday, Feb. 8, 8 a.m.” Visitation at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3800 Mountain Lion Drive, Loveland

Friday, Feb. 8, 9 a.m.: Funeral at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3800 Mountain Lion Drive, Loveland.

Angela’s immediate family also included sister-in-law Robin, wife of Craig (parents of Emily, Rebekah, George and Ben); sister-in-law Amanda, wife of Neal; grandmother Lois Milligan, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

The Johnson family. Photo courtesy of Neal Johnson.

The Johnson family. Photo by Kelsey Hansen, used courtesy of Neal Johnson.

 

More from Johnson’s online profile:

Angela’s love affair with musical theater began very early, as her family has been involved in theatre for many years. Her first role was Lucy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at age 13. She went on to do plays and musicals at Bill Reed Middle School and Loveland High School. Since that time, she has performed with Loveland Community Theater, the Jesters Dinner Theater, Front Range Music Theatre, Loveland Opera Theatre, the Union Colony Dinner Theatre, Up in Lights Productions and the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.

Some of Angela’s favorite roles include: Rose in “The Secret Garden” (JDT, 2004), Tzeitel in “Fiddler on the Roof” (UCDT, 2008), Bloody Mary in “South Pacific” (JDT, 2009), Donna in “The Taffetas” (FRMT, 2009), Jessica Cranshaw in “Curtains” (UIL, 2009), and Mrs. Dilber in “Scrooge! the Musical” (CDP, 2011).

In addition to being an accomplished vocalist, Angela also plays the piano, organ, flute and piccolo.

Angela Johnson, far left, in 'The Taffetas.'

Angela Johnson, far left, in ‘The Taffetas,’ for the Front Range Music Theatre.

 


Angela Johnson espouses the merits of Loveland’s Up in Lights youth theater academy at about the 0:50 mark of the video above.

 

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Phamaly mourns death of actor Ray Angel

Ray Angel, left, joined fellow blind actors Linda Wirth, Julie Melton and Henry Reyes in "Urinetown" in 2007.  File photo by Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post.

Ray Angel, left, joined fellow blind actors Linda Wirth, Julie Melton and Henry Reyes in “Urinetown” in 2007. File photo by Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post.

By John Moore
Jan. 22, 2013

Ray Angel, blind since birth, joined Denver’s handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company for one reason:

“My wife and I were so darn shy, and we thought Phamaly would help us get over it,” Angel told me in a 2007 interview. “And it did.”

Angel has passed away, it was announced today on Phamaly’s facebook page:

Known by fellow actors as a sweet and caring man, Ray appeared in numerous Phamaly productions, including ‘Man of La Mancha’ ‘Anything Goes’ ‘Kiss Me Kate,’ ‘Damn Yankees,’ ‘Once Upon A Mattress,’ ‘The Pajama Game,’ ‘Guys & Dolls,’ ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ and ‘Urinetown.’

After Angel’s wife, Debbie, died in 1999, their daughter urged Ray “to get back on the stage … and back into contact with life,” he said.

And he did.

Angel was one of eight blind actors cast in Phamaly’s 2007 staging of “Urinetown.” It’s a cuttingly clever musical satire of corporate greed, set in a drought-plagued city where water is so precious, you must “pay to pee” – or else.

Director Steve Wilson had the epiphany to cast all his rich characters – the ones who profit off the suffering of the poor – with visually impaired actors. Call it a case of the blind leading the backed-up.

A grave side memorial service will be held for Angel at 10 a.m. Feb. 8 at Golden Cemetery, 755 Ulysses St., Golden. Pot luck to follow at the family home.

Phamaly is the only theater company in town that is so often touched by death that it maintains a memorial list in its programs. In addition to Debbie Angel, the names include Paul Bilzi, Greg Britton, Caroline Buhr, Daniel Cohen, Dan Davidson, Chaz Jacobsen, Diana Kurlyak, Devry Leeds, Judi Myers, James McKenna, Kurt Niblack, Chris Robinson, Christopher Simmons and Mike Spoomer.

Here is the official obituary for Ray Angel.

 

Denver Center Theatre Company mourns death of Shana Dowdeswell

Shana Dowdeswell in  the Denver Center Theatre Company's "Two Things You Don't Talk About at Dinner." Photo by Jennifer M Koskinen.

Shana Dowdeswell appearing in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner” in January 2012. Photo by Terry Shapiro.

By John Moore
Dec. 17, 2012

The Denver Center Theatre Company is mourning the death of Shana Dowdeswell, who appeared in “Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner” in January at the Space Theatre.

Dowdeswell died of acute alcohol poisoning Dec. 12 after a night of binge drinking in New York City.

“It has taken me a few hours to even put any of this into words,” director Wendy C. Goldberg wrote on her Facebook page. “I think the simplest thing to say is, ‘Rest in Peace.’  We lost you way too soon.”

Added castmate Catherine E. Coulson: “This is an enormous loss for Shana’s family and for all those – including all of us – who love her. … May her memory be a blessing as we mourn the loss of a wonderfully gifted and generous young woman we were privileged to know.”

Dowdeswell played Rachelle in “Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner.” She plays a waitress in the upcoming film, “The Big Wedding,” and last year appeared on an episode of ABC’s “Body of Proof.” Her off-Broadway credits included the plays “Distracted,” alongside “Two Things” castmate Mimi Lieber; and “Substitution,” by Anton Dudley.

“Two Things” and “Distracted” were both written by Lisa Loomer.

Dowdeswell registered a blood-alcohol content of 0.39 at the time she was found.

Deceased actor Johnny Lewis’ 2007 Boulder stay: “Seeking solitude in a modern world”

Johnny Lewis at the time of his stay in Boulder in 2007.

 

By John Moore

Sept. 29, 2012

LISTEN TO JOHN MOORE’S INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY LEWIS AND GRETA SEACAT

Johnny Lewis, the “Sons of Anarchy” star who was found dead in a driveway near Hollywood on Wednesday after allegedly murdering his 81-year-old landlady and her cat, performed in a play with his friends in Boulder in 2007, and at that time he agreed to a promotional interview with me while I was working for The Denver Post.

Just days after he was released from jail for trying to break into a woman’s bedroom window last February, police say Lewis went on a rampage Wednesday morning, killing his landlady before plunging to his own death from a roof or wall. He was 28, having descended from a promising Hollywood career and boyfriend of Katy Perry to a sordid life of petty crime, financial  trouble, homelessness, suspected drug abuse and mental illness.

Lewis appeared in 26 episodes of “Sons of Anarchy” in 2008-09 as Kip “Half-Sack” Epps. His final movie was this year’s “186 Dollars to Get Out.” Lewis, who had strong ties to the Church of Scientology, was also waging a custody battle for his daughter at the time of his death.

In May, Lewis’ probation officer filed a report stating: “The defendant will continue to be a threat to any community he may reside [in].”

That wasn’t at all the 23-year-old Lewis we saw during his brief stint in Boulder in 2007. Lewis, who had just wrapped “Aliens vs. Predator 2” at the time, was in Boulder at the behest of director Jamie Wollrab, a 1995 graduate of Boulder High School. Wollrab brought pals Lewis, Shannon Woodward (“Raising Hope”), Justin Chatwin (“War of the Worlds”) and Zach Shields (“The Most Beautiful Thing”) to Boulder to present the black comedy “The Mistakes Madeline Made” at the Dairy Center.

Lewis, for one, was happy to temporarily trade the glare and glam of Hollywood for the artistry of Boulder. “You don’t have celebrities, but you also don’t care, which is awesome,” Lewis told me. “People get strangely obsessive about it in L.A.”

Lewis was an easy sell to come to Boulder. Two of his best friends are from Fort Collins, “and while they didn’t like Fort Collins, they said they love Boulder,” he joked.

“I wanted to get out of L.A., and I wanted to do theater,” he said. “Boulder felt like a more positive place to do it in. We’re kind of sick of (always) being around actors.”

Lewis was like a lot of twenty-somethings. “We don’t love theater,” he said bluntly, including co-star Woodward in his assessment. “We love great theater.” He said he thought “Madeline” was great theater that would appeal to the younger generation because it’s about them.

It’s the story of a young woman named Edna wrestling with her brother’s death and a mind-numbing first job who develops a fear of bathing.  It was written by  Elizabeth Meriwether, then 25.

“This is a play that I feel so connected to,” Lewis said. “It is about youth. It deals with a lot of big issues. It touches on Iraq. It touches on war. It touches on a lot of societal issues. But it mostly reflects on the personal aspects of that. Things like solitude in a modern world, to use a cliche. But it is a young play. I don’t want to use  ‘hip,’ but it’s definitely more for the younger generation. It’s about them.”

Acting coach Greta Seacat, who also performed in the play, called Edna a sensitive, feeling character who, like many kids just out of college, feels trapped in an environment that’s not very nourishing.

In retrospect, she may as well have been talking about Lewis.

“That’s what a lot of young people coming out of college are dealing with in our culture,” she said. “These are big issues: Iraq, the workforce, death, loss, loneliness, addiction, obsession, values, neurosis, pathos. That is the 20s experience now.

“The play asks, ‘How does one live with what’s going on in the world today?”‘

LISTEN TO JOHN MOORE’S INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY LEWIS AND GRETA SEACAT

READ THE 2007 DENVER POST FEATURE STORY

Germinal mourns death of actor David Kristin

The late David Kristin, right, starring in “The Well of the Saints” at Germinal Stage-Denver in 1979.

 

By John Moore

Sept. 25, 2012

Germinal-Stage Denver is mourning the death of actor David Kristin, who was also one of the early members of the Denver Center Theatre Company.

Kristin died March 31 in Massachusetts after a long bout with cancer, but word of his death has only recently reached Germinal founder Ed Baierlein, who employed Kristin back when his company maintained an ongoing company of actors. “He performed in just about every play we did from 1979 to 1982,” Baierlien said.

Kristin, who was 62 and a native of Boston, was under contract with the DCTC for one season, Baierlein said. He also starred in “The Well of the Saints,” “In the Boom Boom Room,” “Inadmissible Evidence,” “Candida,” “Moon for the Misbegotten” and more than a dozen other plays at Germinal, located on 44th Avenue just east of Federal Boulevard in northwest Denver. He was the first actor to ever play Stanley in a Germinal staging of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“He was just the nicest guy,” said Baierlein, who is himself preparing for hip-replacement surgery on Nov. 1. “He was a fun guy to be around and a good guy to work with.”

Kristin once appeared on the Bruce Willis TV series “Moonlighting,” but Baierlein said his sip of (uncredited) big-screen glory came as the young punk rocker who offers his jacket to a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator.”

Here is more on Kristin from his death announcement that appeared in the Winthrop (Mass.) Transcript.

David Kristin, a lifelong poet, avid theatergoer, photographer and passionate lover of music, was also an actor who was known for his unique, humorous, and powerful roles on local stage, national screen – and in life. Whether he was intensely delivering his poetry at the Winthrop Public Library, directing/acting in productions like “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” at the Winthrop Playmakers or silently surrendering his punk-rock jacket over to a nude Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator,” David radiated with a fullness of character, a raw sense of humor and an emotional honesty that was admired and cherished by everybody who knew and loved him. From Brooklyn to Denver to L.A. to Boston, he carried himself with the gentle swagger of an accomplished eccentric and the warmth of a sensitive extrovert with a penchant for stopping to read a poem he knew by heart to a stranger. Above all, he was a compassionate and loving father.

David is survived by his mother, Bea Krivulin of Brooklyn, NY, his three children, Wil, Jesse, and Sarah, their mother, Virginia Land, and his partner Kathy. He is peacefully buried at New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island, N.Y. Friends and acquaintances are encouraged to send any  stories or anecdotes by email to jeskris@gmail.com

Denver theater producer Robert Garner was a man for all ages

 

Robert S. Garner

By John Moore

To ask Robert Garner, he was about in his mid-20s.

Garner was a legendary theater producer and bon vivant for whom the Garner-Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex is named. He died Thursday morning (July 19, 2012) at home, no doubt against his will, at the (chronological) age of 80.

“What’s my secret?” he said in a 2007 Denver Post interview: “Two things: Have a little passion about life – and keep your friends young.

“If you get to be 75, and you act 75, and you are only around people who are 75 … then you become 75.”

Denver Center president Randy Weeks described Garner as an entrepreneur and impresario. “Bob’s influence in Broadway touring theater at the Denver Center and around the country will not be forgotten,” Weeks said.

Garner was born on Oct. 29, 1931, in Massachusetts, and moved to Colorado when his Army dad retired here. The young Garner thought only Indians lived here at the time, he said. He graduated in chemistry from the University of Colorado and began his producing career when a 1961 production of “Fiorello” was basically handed to him – and he cleared $10,000.

Over the next 34 years, Garner booked almost everything that played at the Auditorium Theatre (now the Ellie Caulkins Opera House) and later, the Buell Theatre. He brought in acts as diverse as the Vienna Boys Choir, Marcel Marceau, Hal Holbrook and the African Ballet.

Those were star-system days, when big film names routinely performed on Los Angeles stages as well. Garner hooked up with the comparably sized Ahmanson Theatre there and arranged for the stars to test-run their plays here in Denver before friendlier audiences. That four-year arrangement brought Maggie Smith, Ingrid Bergman, Jack Lemmon, Charlton Heston, Carol Channing, Kate Hepburn and dozens more to Denver.

“That was a real boon to us because we got shows nobody else in the country ever saw,” Garner said.

Ray Roderick, who directed “The Taffetas” at the Garner-Galleria, in 2007, said of Garner: “He’s rubbed shoulders with Carol Channing and Kate Hepburn and all these other stars. He is show business.”

Garner joined forces with Denver Post publisher Donald R. Seawell in 1970 as Seawell began building the Denver Performing Arts Complex around the Auditorium Theatre.

“Don called me very early on and asked me to head up his Broadway division,” Garner said. “He was editor of The Post at the time and he had a lot of power, so you knew he was going to do it with or without you. So I thought, ‘What’s the point of being on my own fighting this big arts center when I can throw my weight into it, too? So that’s what I did.”

The only time Garner ever appeared on stage himself was in the ensemble of “Kiss Me, Kate,” a production that starred Marilyn Van Derbur at the old Bonfils Theatre. That was 1959, a year after Van Derbur was crowned Miss America.

“I never, ever had any desire to be on the stage,” he said. “I always wanted to be just  what I was, which was a producer.

Garner retired in 1985, before the theater that now bears his name was opened and independently operated by Rick Seeber as StageWest. A dozen years later, the Denver Center was running the now-Galleria Theater and renamed it for Garner in tribute to his career.

“I always wanted my name up in lights, but I never really thought it would happen,” Garner said.

In 2007, Roderick rallied Garner to participate in his staging of “The Taffetas” in the Garner-Galleria. In the lighthearted 1950s musical, Garner appeared in taped segments as the host of an Indiana  televised musical variety show.

Jenny Schiavone, now director of media relations for Denver International Airport, went to work for the Denver Center when she was 18. “I really found a family there in that group of people, and Bob was patriarch of that found family,” she said. “He loved the opening nights, the cast parties, and he was responsible for a lot of great, fun times.”

Garner grew up in the era of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Frankie Laine, but he loved whatever was new.

“My whole career was about passion.,” he said. “It’s true of anybody who wants to be successful: If you don’t have passion for anything, you have nothing.”

Garner served as an honorary DCTC trustee until his death. He is survived by a sister.

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts will host a celebration of Garner’s life at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Seawell Grand Ballroom, 1011 13th St. The event is open to the public but your RSVP is requested at http://www.rememberingbobgarner.com/content/home.html

Note: Garner’s quotes above come from an interview conducted by John Moore in 2007 for a story in The Denver Post. 

 

Jason Henning played Robert Garner in a Curious Theatre tribute to Garner’s career in 2007. Photo by Michael Ensminger.