Video podcast: The final performance at Germinal-Stage Denver

“Offending the Audience” was the final play staged by Germinal Stage-Denver at its 26-year home in northwest Denver. Here’s my video podcast capturing the emotion of the closing-night performance on Aug. 25, 2013. Video by John Moore. Running time: 9 minutes.

Direct link to the video

By John Moore
Sept. 1, 2013

People have been asking me about my first experience acting on a stage since performing in “Equus” as a college student in Boulder. I got suckered into joining the cast of “Offending the Audience” when I told Ed Baierlein I wanted to chronicle the final Germinal Stage-Denver production at its northwest Denver home for the past 26 years. “Fine,” he told me … You’re in the play.”

Wait … what?

After the first rehearsal, I wanted to punch this play in the face. I quickly realized that its repetitive, hypnotic and confounding Seuss-like language was too much for my feeble memory to master – especially after a concussion scrambled my brain jelly back in 2009. At one point, feigning the altruism of not wanting to bring down the work of the 40 actual, veteran stage actors Baierlein had brought together for this swan song, I tried to quit.

“No,” Baierlein said bluntly. “You’re just scared.”

Yeah? Tell me something I don’t know, you big bully!

I will always be grateful to Ed for the journalistic opportunity to chronicle an important closing chapter in local theater history. I will always be grateful to Ed for pushing me, because I actually did learn six long, dense word widgets. Words like, “Only a play where time is left out of play is a play …” And in doing so, I learned that just maybe … my memory circuits aren’t quite as blown as I assumed them to be. For me, that’s a huge win.

As for the play, I was tickled to see that the same thing that I loved about high-school and college theater still happens among grizzled vets: They started to form a unit, a family. They bonded. And then, like the audience of a play, they ceased to gather and they ceased to form a unit. That’s sort of the point of the play. Where it fibs is that it doesn’t acknowledge that the ephemeral, sentimental connection that now binds us together … will remain long after the building is returned to a cobbler’s shop.

I made fun of this perplexing script for weeks. But eventually, I too, started to see the gems of truth in it. (Too bad audiences only got 80 minutes to fall in love with it.)

In the end, the script is not really about the theater experience, as it claims. It’s call to be aware of the experience of being alive. Thank you to everyone involved in this production who allowed me the opportunity to experience that.

Additional coverage:

Countdown to Closure: John Moore’s blow-by-blog chronicling the final production at Germinal Stage Denver.

Kenny Burt: Original cast member on marrow and forgotten riots.

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

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

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

 

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

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

By John Moore
Aug. 6, 2013

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

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

WHAT THE HELL?

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

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


Lawrence Allen and Melissa Pear:
Mind-blower.

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

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

Samara Bridwell: Jarring.

Paul Caouette: Meditational.

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

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

Lori Hansen: Insane.

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

Fred Lewis:
Incomprehensible.

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

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

Erica Sarzin-Borrillo: Mind-twisting.

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

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

Augustus Truhn: Condescending-ass-blood.

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

Gina Wencel:
Vexatious.

Diane Wziontka: A cliff.

 

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

Previous coverage:

Countdown to Closure: My blog chronicling the rehearsal process

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

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

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

 

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

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


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

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

DAY 22By John Moore
Aug. 5, 2013

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

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

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

Leroy Leonard

Leroy Leonard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Previous coverage:

Countdown to Closure: My blog chronicling the rehearsal process

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

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

 

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

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


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

Photos: My Night at Germinal’s ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’

IMG_5482A
Zachary Andrews takes a moment to prepare for one of the great challenges available to an actor of his young age: Sickly Edmund, the character who represents Eugene O’Neill himself in his autobiographical masterpiece, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

 

By John Moore
May 29, 2013

Welcome to my ongoing, 2013 labor-of-love photo series bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes on opening nights in Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore copyright 2013 for www.CultureWest.Org.

Opening No. 73: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”: Germinal Stage-Denver is down to its last few offerings before closing its longtime home in northwest Denver and turning into a something of a gypsy company. (More on that story here.) This is an impeccable cast performing one of founder Ed Baierlein’s favorite playwrights … so this is how you’ll want to remember (this incarnation of) Germinal Stage-Denver. Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical, Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece follows the seriously damaged Tyrone family in their seaside Connecticut home over the course of one fateful day, as sins and secrets gradually trickle out like morphine drips from a hypodermic needle. Baierlein, also the director, plays patriarch James Tyrone for the third time, now opposite Erica Sarzin-Borrillo in the powerhouse role of the dope-fiend matriarch, Mary. She’s got a seriously twisted relationship with her sickly son Edmund (Zachary Andrews), who in turn trades barbs, ballast and whiskey with older brother Jamie (Stephen R. Kramer). Also featuring Samara Bridwell as the maid, Cathleen. This is a Chekhovian American family with a blurred past, intoxicated present and muddled future. Through June 9. It’s famously long (at 3 and a half hours), but starts early. Showtimes: 7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2450 W. 44th Ave., 303-455-7108 or Germinal’s home page. Thanks: Sallie Diamond, Tad Baierlein, cast and crew.

The following gallery is just one chapter in my ongoing photo series called “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes all over Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the actual, official photo series featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 73 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

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

 

IMG_5557
44th Avenue just east of Federal Boulevard will never be the same once the Germinal Stage-Denver closes at the end of the summer. There are two more offerings, and while it’s yet to be determined what the final title will be, Baierlein is negotiating for the rights to one of his most controversial previous efforts: “Offending the Audience.” That’s a 45-minute polemical lecture about theater written by Australian Peter Handke, first staged at Germinal in 1976.

 

IMG_5568

 

 

IMG_5483A
Zachary Andrews and Erica Sarzin-Borrillo are fighting a congestive virus that has swept through the cast. Because  Andrews’ character is dying of consumption, at least he gets to work his misery into his performance.

 

IMG_5548
Thousands of audience members have trekked inside the Germinal Stage-Denver through this cigar-smelling back entrance since 1987.

 

IMG_5507
Samara Bridwell plays the tippling maid, Cathleen.

 

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Troubled (to put it mildly) older bother Jamie is played by Stephen R. Kramer.

 

IMG_5573
A cast photo hung on the Germinal wall shows what the same production looked like when Baierlein & Company first staged O’Neill’s classic in 1975.

 

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Zachary Andrews, shown alone backstage, will next appear in the Aurora Fox’s “Metapmorphoses” — set in a swimming pool.

 

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Posted quote to the contrary (from “The Unvarnished Truth”), there’s no keeping Erica Sarzin-Borrillo out of the men’s dressing room at the Germinal Stage-Denver. Zachary Andrews wouldn’t even try.

 

 

(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of our photos from our visit to “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”)

2013 theater photo series: It’s Opening Night in Colorado

By John Moore
Jan. 1, 2014

Welcome to my 2013 labor-of-love photo series bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes on opening nights in Colorado theater. This series includes one representative shot from 151 of the performances we saw 2013. The intent was to allow the reader a window into a part of the creative process they are not often allowed to witness. The result was awide swath of public and private moments backstage, onstage and outside of the stage entirely. In addition to this primary series, we dedicated a gallery of outtakes to most every production we visited as well. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To inquire about reprints, email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Most recent entry:

OPENING 151
At the end of their final performance last night, it was only fitting that, from left, Scott Koop, Alex Crawford, Amie Rau, Johnette Toye, Annie Dwyer, Rory Pierce, T.J. Mullin (and, unseen, musicians Randy Johnson and Eric Weinstein) had no choice but to stand silently while the overflow cheering crowd stood for several minutes  thanking them not just for an evening of entertainment, but for a quarter century of laughs, songs, terrible puns  and heart-tugging moments.

Opening No. 151: Heritage Square Music Hall’s “Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Goodbye”: It seems only appropriate that the final entry in our “opening nights” photo series was, in fact, a closing night. And what a closing night it was for the Heritage Square Music Hall: A New Year’s Eve celebration, followed by a midnight toast, live band and dancing into the wee hours. For this wasn’t just the end of a show for the Golden institution. That was closing night … period. And not just for T.J. Mullin and his venerable cadre of triple-threat performers. No, this was the end of the kind of entertainment Heritage Square has been providing audiences since Mullin bought the Heritage Square Music Hall from the legendary Bill Oakley in 1988. The Music Hall stopped being an old-fashioned house of melodrama long ago. It evolved into a place that offered blue-collar, comfortable, throwback fun. Clean, family entertainment (the hardest kind of comedy to pull off) that was both ridiculous and impeccably delivered at once. The Music Hall became best-known for its “Loud” shows, a series of pop radio hits performed by a cast that never got the credit it deserved for being among the most talented performers on any Denver stage. That final cast was Alex Crawford, Johnette Toye, Annie Dwyer, Rory Pierce and T.J. Mullin, with musicians Randy Johnson, Eric Weinstein and Crawford, with help from the booth from Scott Koop and Amie Rau. Merry Christmas indeed, Heritage Square Music Hall. And to all of you: Goodbye. Until we see you again. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Connie Helsley. Look for a full photo gallery from the final night in the coming days, as well as a video podcast that will include cast and audience interviews, and some performance highlights.

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

 

Previous entries:

OPENING 148

Opening No. 150: Vintage Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein”: The final opening night of our 2013 series has Mark Shoney jumping for joy. Actually Shonsey, who plays Igor, was pumping himself up during warmups for Friday’s opening-night performance in Aurora. This wickedly inspired re-imagining of the classic Mel Brooks movie follows young Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (“that’s Fronkensteen!”) as he attempts to create a monster, just like his uncle Victor – but not without comic complications. The brains behind the laughter is the mad genius himself – Brooks wrote the music and lyrics and co-wrote the book. This production is the first since renovations to the Vintage Theatre stage that lowered the playing area, allowing for greater vertical playing space. There is also increased wing space that allows for larger sets and larger live orchestras. Musical director Hunter Hall sports a merry band of 11 for “Young Frankenstein.” Starring Seth Maisel (Frederick Frankenstein), Mark Shonsey (Igor), Kristi Siedow-Thompson (Inga), Mike Keinker (The Monster), Shahara Ostrand (Elizabeth), Barbara Porecca (Frau Blucher), Patrick Brownson (Hans Kemp), Chris Gallegos (Victor), Richard-Curtis Simpson (Harold the Hermit) and Zach Nick (Ziggy), with an ensemble of Matt Cantwell, Matt Davis, Steffan Scrogan, David Ballew, Teig Stanley, Preston Britton, Kathi Wood, Kaitlyn Althoff, Bianca Hinchley and Nicole Giordano. Directed by Deb Flomberg. The show plays through Feb. 2. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays at 1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintage’s home page . Photo by John Moore for CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Aran Peters, Deb Persoff and Craig Bond.

 

OPENING 149

Opening No. 149: Starkey Theatrix’s “Home for the Holidays 2013″: For theater audiences, and the actors who perform it, a play or musical is an everyday, scheduled, temporary escape. But there are days when there is no escape from the unexpected barbarities the real world has been visiting upon Colorado with cruel regularity over the years: Chuck E. Cheese. Columbine. Platte Canyon. Aurora Century Cinemas. Multiple award-winning actor Margie Lamb (“Next to Normal”) sang and danced in the opening performance of Starkey Theatrix’s “Home for the Holidays 2013″ in Lone Tree on Thursday night. Now just try to imagine her horror when, at 12:36 p.m. the next afternoon, she received the text pictured above from her son, Blake. He’s a junior at Arapahoe High School. That text came in just a few minutes after fellow Arapahoe student Karl Pierson allegedly sought revenge against a teacher by opening fire with a shotgun at the school before taking his own life, police believe. What does a son do in those first few moments of inescapable, indescribable panic? Blake took out his phone and wrote his mom to make sure his parents knew, no matter what might happen next, that he loves them. Lamb immediately rushed from her downtown job to the school in Littleton, where she was reunited with her son, who by then was safe. Together, they became part of the lockdown that kept them both at the school for several more hours. And then, because the clock never stops, there was another show scheduled for Lamb to perform that night. And Lamb, being the pro that she is, went on. The show is a talent-laden bouquet to family audiences, a high-energy trifle meant to lift the community’s spirits during the holiday season. So what better way to stand up to violence and fear than to sing and dance? The musical revue offers some of the most popular holiday music from the past and present, much of it recast with cleverly altered lyrics to suit any given situation. And a wide variety of dancing styles, including gymnastics and a pulse-racing break-dance segment. The narrator is an elf played by Sarah Rex, alongside a deep ensemble made up of some big names in the local theater community including Lamb, Kenny Moten, Randy St. Pierre, Stephen Bertles, the very busy young Alejandro Roldan (“In the Heights” and “Next to Normal”) and Starkey’s founders, Chris Starkey and Ronni Gallup. The ensemble includes Rae Klapperich (who made the more than 100 costumes with her mother, Laurie Klapperich), Wyatt Baier, Hula-Hooper extraordinaire Ambrosia Brady, Olyvia Beyette, Cole Emerine, Erica Lloyd, Britni Girard, Jennifer Lynne Jorgensen, Anne Terze-Schwartz, Kristi Vogel and Tess Williams. In addition, there are special appearances by — I kid you not — members of the Denver Broncos Stampede Drumline, a competitive jump-roping team called the Jumping Eagles, and a dance company called Hip Hop Theatre. Not to mention 14 children and a live orchestra of six. Directed by Paul Dwyer, best known from his days as an actor at the now-closed Country Dinner Playhouse. The music director is Trent Hines; the Choreographers are Matthew D. Peters and John Gilette. Modifications have been made to make this show more accessible to individuals on the autism spectrum, who have learning disabilities or a variety of sensitivities. The show ran from through Dec. 22 at the Lone Tree Arts Center, 10075 Commons St. That’s just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue, 720-509-1000, or go to Lone Tree’s home page. Thanks: Heidi Echtenkamp.

 

OPENING 148
At its best, live theater in schools empowers young student performers with self-confidence and a sense of both camaraderie and shared accomplishment. At any level, live theater at its best moves audiences … and these two young audience members were clearly moved to, well, move during the Willow Creek Elementary School’s musical, “Dear Edwina Junior.”

Opening No. 148: Willow Creek Elementary School’s “Dear Edwina Junior”: This middle-school fave follows the adventures of plucky advice-giver Edwina Spoonapple as she directs the neighborhood kids in a series of production numbers as part of the latest edition of her weekly “Advice-A-Palooza” extravaganza. Written in the episodic style of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Dear Edwina Junior” takes turns showcasing different members of its young cast. In the case of the fifth-grade musical at Willow Creek Elementary School, one of those cast members was my nephew, Aiden, who played a vampire named Frankenguest. It must be in the (vampire) blood. Aiden his made his stage debut with the school’s “Madd Hatters” group two days shy of his 11th birthday.

 

OPENING 147Young Catamounts cast member Quinn Hirschland jumps for joy – and casts a long shadow – during a pre-show rehearsal for Feed.”

Opening No. 147: The Catamounts’ “Feed: Short and Sweet”: Boulder’s The Catamounts performance collective reference food in their slogan: “Theatre for the Adventurous Palate.” So it’s feeding, I mean fitting, that Amanda Berg Wilson’s young team has turned its unique “Feed” series into its signature offering. “Feed” offers audiences professional storytelling paired with specialty beer and locally sourced food. In this case: A roster of Sanitas beers paired with hand-crafted desserts from Kim and Jake’s Cakes; Sweet Cow Ice Cream; and pastry chefs Dorian O’Connell and Kathy Moore.) They perform while you nosh in the back brewing room at Sanita’s Brewing Company. The food and the theater fare serve as equal partners in creating a cohesive narrative here. The common ingredient for this round of stories: Each evokes sweet moments that arise from The depths of the coldest and hardest times of year, when the days are shortest and challenges the biggest. The Catamounts’ aforementioned Amanda Berg Wilson, Joan Bruemmer-Holden, McPherson Horle and Jeremy Make are joined by guest storytellers Heather Grimes (from Boulder’s “Truth Be Told” story slam) and a boy named Quinn HIrschland to perform a mix of monologues, adapted short stories and real stories from Boulder’s recent floods. There’s some A.A. Milne (“A House is built at Pooh Corner for Eeyore”) in there, with a taste of former Colorado Mines engineering student turned celebrated fiction writer George Saunders (“Tenth of December.”) A second “Feed” has been scheduled to accommodate demand at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. at Sanitas, 3550 Frontier Ave. (off Foothills Parkway and Pearl Street). Tickets are $30. Call 720-468-0487 or go to The Catamounts’ home page.

 

OPENING 146
Introducing one of the lesser-known Knights of the Round Table: Sir Fabio. Scott Severtson, who’s not normally this … maned … plays Sir Dennis, a k a Galahad.

Opening No. 146: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Monty Python’s Spamalot”: Monty Python has come to Boulder to taunt poor King Arthur, the principled if idiotic leader of the quest for the Holy Grail. Why God the all-knowing has misplaced a cup is anyone’s guess. “Spamalot,” the Tony Award-winning best musical of 2005, lovingly rips off the beloved, warped source film, with its full allotment of dancing divas and knights, flatulent Frenchmen, killer rabbits and that one snickeringly legless fightin’ knight. While the plot loosely follows the same course of events as the film, the stage equivalent is very much its own sacrilegious thing, so do not come expecting a carbon copy. We open in Finland, after all. I mean, this is a bona fide Broadway musical, so it’s got to have some actual women too. And here those women are Laker Girls. For real. Starring Wayne Kennedy as the utterly guileless King Arthur, with Alicia Dunfee as his Lady of the Lake. The ensemble includes Brett Ambler, Scott Beyette, Brian Cronin, Barrett Harper, Jessica Hindsley, Bob Hoppe, Brian Jackson, Norrell Moore, Brian Norber, Joey Revier, Scott Severtson, Burke Walton, Tracy Warren, Tracey Zimmerman and … STG … Jerry Lewis (the real Jerry Lewis) as the Voice of God. Directed by Piper Lindsay Arpan, who appeared in the Broadway production of “Spamalot.” Showtimes: 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:45 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 1:30 and 7:45 p.m. Sundays (dinner service 90 minutes before) through March 1 at 5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or BDT’s home page Thanks: Michael J. Duran, Seamus McDonough, cast and crew.

 

OPENING 145
Noal Blessing, left, and Everett Ediger show off their varying flying machines backstage on opening night. Noal sports a Lego spaceship; Everett sends his paper airplane aloft just as the shutter is snapped. Noal, who has Spastic Cerebral Palsy and a progressive hearing deficit, and Everett, who has Spina Bifida, play the sons of George Bailey. The Phamaly Theatre Company prides itself on adding new levels of complexity and meaning to any production it takes on by virtue of the evident disabilities its actors incorporate into their stage characters. So what we have here is a George Bailey driven to the brink of suicide, only here he’s leaving behind four handicapped kids, two of them young boys in wheelchairs. That certainly adds layers to the emotion-laden issue of suicide. There are those who intractably believe that any act of suicide, for any reason, is inherently selfish and/or sinful. So the very idea of George leaving a wife behind to care for four (adorable) handicapped children here no doubt makes actor Jeremy Palmer’s challenge in playing him sympathetically that much more difficult. But young Jeremy is up to the task. It should be noted that directors Steve Wilson and Bryce Russell Alexander do not have Palmer utter the second half of Jimmy Stewart’s most chilling line of the famous source movie, which he blurts when George is at the depth of his anger and despair: “You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have all these kids?”

Opening No. 145: Phamaly Theatre Company’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”: This is the acclaimed local handicapped theatre company’s first-ever holiday presentation. The story of George Bailey and his not-so-wonderful life in Bedford Falls (he thinks) remains a timeless fable of dreams, disillusionment and, ultimately, the power of love. The cast includes Jeremy Palmer (George Bailey), Lyndsay Palmer (Mary Bailey), Trenton Schindele (Clarence), Michael Leopard (Mr. Potter) and an ensemble that includes Daniel Traylor, David Wright, Lucy Roucis, Edward Blackshere, Ashley Kelashian, Jaime Lewis, Twanna Latrice Hill, Kim Jackson, Cassie Ferro, Amber Marsh, Tammy Davison, Noal Blessing, Everett Ediger, Lily Blessing, Harper Ediger, Shannon Wilson, Alicia Young, Eric Richerson and Edric Richerson. Co-directed by Steve Wilson and Bryce Alexander. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; plus 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16 and Thursday, Dec. 19. Through Dec. 22 at the Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Ave., 303-575-0005 or phamaly’s home page. Thanks: Gloria Shanstrom, Chris Silberman, Grace Hartke and Danielle Rankin.

 

OPENING 144
Pssst …. Look who’s REALLY playing the Baby Jesus bundle of joy in Su Teatro’s holiday pastoral? Yes … It’s Minnie Ratón! I think that kid’s got a future in show biz. That’s Jessica Portillo as Proud Mary.

Opening No. 144: Su Teatro’s “La Pastorela”: “The Shepherd’s Play” recounts the epic battle between the dark angel Luzbel (Jesse Ogas and minions) and the sword-swinging San Miguel (Amy Luna). Luis Valdez’s retelling of this centuries-old folktale is a family friendly comedy that follows the trek of humble shepherds as they encounter the Angel of the Lord, who announces the birth of the Redeemer in Bethlehem. Embarking on their spiritual journey in search of the Holy Child, the scruffy shepherds find themselves beset by the demonic followers of Lucifer and Satan, who waylay them with obstacles born of their own human frailties. This adaptation is no sleepy drummer-boy version of the Nativity: it is a pageant of passion, excitement, action, adventure, music and comedy. Valdez, considered “the father of Chicano theatre,” attended Saturday’s performance. It was`his first visit to Su Teatro, though his brother, Daniel, has contributed original music for Su Teatro productions for years. Daniel is the music director of “La Pastorela.” He is in residence at Su Teatro for the next two years, to develop new work with artistic director Anthony J. Garcia as part of a two-year innovation grant from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation. In the fields of rural California, without financial backing and using farm laborers as actors, a 25-year-old Luis Valdez singlehandedly created a movement that has since become international in scope. “La Pastorela” is also performed as part of the St. Cajetan’s Reunification Project, an annual event in which Su Teatro and the community recognize the Chicano residential community that was displaced in 1972 for Auraria to be built. Also featuring Lorenzo Gonzales, Charlie Romero, Jaycee Sanchez, an ensemble of dozens and a live band of six. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. matinees (Dec. 15 is reserved solely for AARP members and their families). Through Dec. 22 At the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or su teatro’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Mica Garcia de Benavidez.

 

OPENING 142
You know what I was thinking before the opening performance of “A Christmas Carol”? It’s too bad these kid actors are so darned shy. Clockwise from center, that’s Max Raabe (nephew, I found out last night, of longtime Denver Post reporter Steve Raabe),Sam Modesitt, Edwin Harris and Connor Nguyen Erickson

Opening No. 143: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “A Christmas Carol”: The Denver Center Theatre Company’s holiday tradition turns 21 this year with a return to its opulent musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel. Twenty-one? That’s older than, like, every kid in this picture combined. The story, of course, traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s overnight journey to redemption. This timeless tale illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations. Again starring Philip Pleasants as Scrooge, with Phamaly Theatre Company’s Leonard E. Barrett as the Ghost of Christmas Present, John Hutton as Marley, Jeff Cribbs as Cratchit, Stephanie Cozart as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Douglas Harmsen as Fred, M. Scott McLean as Young Ebenezer, Michael Fitzpatrick as Fezziwig, Leslie O’Carroll as Mrs. Fezziwig, Leslie Alexander as Mrs. Cratchit and Charlie Korman as Tiny Tim. (Check out our short video interview with Charlie here. It’s worth the two minutes, I promise). They are backed by a huge ensemble that includes Colin Alexander, Benjamin Bonenfant, Michael Bouchard, Kathleen M. Brady, Courtney Capek, Jenn Miller Cribbs, Connor Nguyen Erickson, Michael Gaessler, Tanner Gardner, Edwin Harris, Gabe Koskinen-Sansone, Kyra Lindsay, Amelia Modesitt, Sam Modesitt, Gabriel Morales-Gonzalez, Tricia Moreland, Mackenzie Paulsen, Jeffrey Roark, Christine Rowan, Thomas Russo, Maggie Sczekan, Lauren Shealy, Jake Walker and Christopher Wells. Showtimes: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. Also: 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 24. No performance on Wednesday, Dec. 25. No evening performance on Sunday, Dec. 29. At the Stage Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s home page

 

OVER THE TAVERN
Bas Bleu Theatre co-founder Wendy Ishii, right, greets the cast in the dressing room before they face their first audience, a sold-out house in Fort Collins. From left, Thomas Borrillo, Billy Dean Allen and Ailie Holland.

Opening No. 142: Bas Bleu Theatre’s “Over the Tavern”: This bittersweet period comedy looks back at family living over a blue-collar bar in 1959. Four children are caught between the claustrophobic authoritarianism of the Roman Catholic Church and an emotionally abusive father. Only their mother keeps this family afloat. At the center of the piece is precocious 12-year-old rebel named Rudy, who goes knuckle-to ruler-with his formidable teacher, Sister Clarissa, in the questioning of his beliefs. The cast features Thomas Borrillo as Chet (revisiting the bad-dad role he played at the Arvada Center in 2006) Ailee Holland as embattled wife Ellen and Deb Note-Farwell as old-school nun Sister Clarissa, a character who bears a striking resemblance to battleaxe Sister Aloysius in “Doubt.” Director Jonathan Farwell (he won the recent Henry Award for his performance in “Amadeus”) has gathered some fine teen and teen(ish) actors in August Slaughter (perhaps the greatest not-even-fake stage name in stage history), Billy Dean Allen as Georgie, Miles Chandler Horne as Eddie and Erin Johnson as Annie. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through Jan. 5 at 401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or bas bleu’s home page. Thanks: Wendy Ishii, Tricia Navarre and Amy Mills. More “Over the Tavern” photos will be posted in the coming days.

 

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Among this lovely crowd of sock-puppets and do-gooders are “Balls” cast members GerRee Hinshaw, Melanie Owen Padilla, Mare Trevathan and Jim Ruberto, as well as staff members from the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, including executive director Erin Jemison and program manager Karen Moldovan.

Opening No. 141: “Balls V! A Holiday Spectacular”: For the fifth straight year, a trio of “Balls Babes” and a standing bass player joined forces to present a rollicking benefit variety show that included audience sock puppet sing-alongs, spontaneous haikus and worthless prizes. “Balls” is slightly bonkers, mostly heartwarming with an emphasis on fun. It played Dec. 1 and 2 this year at Lannie’s ClockTower Cabaret. It again starred GerRee Hinshaw (host of The Bug Theatre’s “Freak Train”), Melanie Owen Padilla (of the Cedar Avenue Blues Band) and local actor Mare Trevathan of Boulder’s Local Theatre Company. Musical accompaniment by Jim Ruberto. Rotating special guests included John Common and Jess DeNicola, Lannie’s emcee Naughty Pierre, comedian Matt Monroe, singing comedian Shayna Ferm and juggler Reid Belstock. This year, proceeds went to the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a non-profit promoting safety, justice and healing for survivors of sexual violence. If you missed this year’s “Balls,” you can still make a donation to CCASA here.

 

OPENING 139

Opening No. 140: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “The SantaLand Diaries”: National Theatre Conservatory graduate and Wheat Ridge native Matt Zambrano has constructed a dressing-room tribute to all of the recent Denver actors who have played Crumpet before him. That’s Geoff Kent’s head on the golden reindeer, and a Bille Holiday-ish Gary Culig with an elfin Bernie Cardell atop the clock radio (surrounded by, you know, Merlins and action figures). Zambrano is donning the candy-cane tights for a second straight holiday season telling David Sedaris’ real-life story of working as an elf in the New York Macy’s SantaLand display. Kent preceded Zambrano for three Decembers at the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company; Culig played the caustic elf for 10 straight years at the Vintage Theatre; and Cardell starred for Vintage Theatre. This staging is a co-production with Denver Center Attractions, which is presenting the show in its Garner-Galleria cabaret bar. Directed by Stephen Weitz. Contains adult subject matter and explicit language. Photo by John Moore for CultureWest.Org. (Look for a full, dedicated gallery of “SantaLand” opening-night photos to come). Thanks: Heidi Bosk, Anja Hose Jess Buttery and Maxie Beth Bilyeu. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Tuesdays; also 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. No performances on Wednesdays. No performance on Tuesday, Dec. 3. At the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the Denver Center’s ticketing page

 

OPENING 138

Opening No. 139: Arvada Center’s “A Christmas Carol”: Emily Ann Luhrs accepted two marriage proposals on Tuesday. First, as herself, she agreed to marry longtime boyfriend and “A Christmas Carol” castmate Ben Dicke, mutton chops and all. Ben (star of the self-produced “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson last year at the Aurora Fox), presented the ring at a private dinner before last night’s opening performance. Just an hour or so later, Emily, playing a character named Emily (!), accepted another marriage proposal from young Ebeneezer Scrooge. One not being played by Ben Dicke. Nervy! (In her defense, she does give THAT ring back.) The Arvada Center’s version of “A Christmas Carol,” back after a year off, is the 1994 musical adaptation of Dickens’ classic story, written by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens, featuring music by Alan Menken (Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”). The cast features Richard White as Ebenezer Scrooge — he was the voice of Gaston in the “Beauty and the Beast” animated film), Cole Burden (Bob Cratchit), Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck (Ghost of Christmas Future), Megan Van De Hey (Ghost of Christmas Past), Stephen Day (Ghost of Christmas Present) and Brad Nacht (Jacob Marley). The ensemble members also include Joanie Brosseau-Beyette, Stephen Cerf, Rob Costigan, Jennifer DeDominici, Maddie Franke, Kaden Hinkle, Tim Howard, Hannah Katz, Charla Mason, David Miller, Julia Perrotta, Katie Phipps, Gregory Price, Parker Redford, Vincent Rodriguez, Mark Rubald, Robert Michael Sanders, Nate Patrick Siebert, Jacob Lewis Smith, Ron Tal, Rachel Turner, Kira Vuolo and Sharon Kay White. Directed by Gavin Mayer. Showtimes through Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1. No performance on Thanksgiving (Nov. 28). At 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or the Arvada Center’s home page. Thanks: Melanie Mayner, Rod Lansberry, Pat Payne, Lisa Cook, Lisa Kurtz, cast and crew.

OPENING 137

 

Opening No. 138: Equinox Theatre Company’s “Carrie: The Musical:” This musical takes a legit stab at adapting Stephen King’s novel for the musical stage. Carrie White is a misfit. At school, she’s an outcast who’s bullied by the popular crowd, and virtually invisible to everyone else. At home, she’s at the mercy of her wacko, overprotective mother. But Carrie has just discovered she’s got a special power, and if pushed too far, she’s not afraid to use it… And you already know she does: When Carrie is humiliated at the prom, she wreaks havoc on everyone and everything in her path. Audiences should know that unlike recent stagings of “Night of the Living Dead” and “Evil Dead” at the Bug Theatre, “Carrie” is not a campy satire. It is written very much in the vein of traditional Broadway fare. “Carrie” stars Haley DiVirgilio, Terra Salazar, Shahara Ray, Dana Hart Lubeck, Devin Bustamante and Ember Everett; and features Chris Arneson, Joseph Graves, Savannah Lake, Chelsea Winslow, Ashley Brown, Taylor Sommer, Chris Riney, James L. Crapes and Zach Nick. Directed by Colin Roybal and Hunter Hall. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 30 at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page. Thanks: Lauren Meyer, Deb Flomberg, Leticia Bisgard, cast and crew.

 

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Opening No. 137: Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Misérables”: This production closed on Saturday night, but the buzz on it was so strong all the way down from Fort Collins, I wanted to see it — and represent it in our photo series — before it was too late. And it lived up to its billing. They may have been prodded, but it didn’t take much cajoling to get the screaming dinner patrons to wave their red napkins at the curtain call in support of the rebellion — and the production they had just seen. In all, more than 9,000 attended “Les Misérables” during its 12-week run, making it the second-most attended show in Midtown (formerly the Carousel Dinner Theatre) history. No. 1: “Shrek, the Musical.” “Les Misérables” featured a cast made up of both established local actors and a few who were brought in from New York. It starred David Ambroson as Jean Valjean and featured Brandon Schraml as Javert, Amy Madden Copp as Fantine, Nigel Huckle as Marius, Colleen Johnson as Eponine, Lisa Carter as Cosette, Colin Morgan as Enjolras, Michael Lasris as Thenardier and Jalyn Courtenay Webb as Mrs. Thenardier. The directors were Kurt Terrio, Jalyn Courtenay Webb (vocals) and Casey Cropp (orchestra). Thanks: cast and crew.

 

OPENING 136SM

Opening No. 136: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Jackie & Me: Linda G. Alvarado, co-owner of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, congratulates 22-year-old actor Aaron Davidson for his opening-night performance by allowing him to wear her 2007 World Series ring. Davidson, a Colorado native and graduate of the Denver School of the Arts, plays Joey Stoshack, a 12-year-old boy who is bullied because of his Polish descent. When the boy goes back in time to 1947, he not only witnesses Jackie Robinson break the baseball color barrier, his own skin color changes in the process, giving him a whole new perspective on prejudice and discrimination. Alvarado is president and CEO of Alvarado Construction, Inc., which built Sports Authority Field at Mile High. She is also a member of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and was named one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in America by Hispanic Business Magazine. When the Rockies were awarded a franchise, Alvarado became the first Latino owner, male or female, in Major League Baseball history, and the second female owner in the big leagues. “Jackie & Me” is written by Denver native Steven Dietz, who also wrote “Rancho Mirage,” which is presently being performed by the nearby Curious Theatre Company through Dec. 7. “Jackie & Me” is directed by Stephen Weitz. Also starring William Oliver Watkins (top right of photo) and featuring Michael Santo, Kristen Adele, Ryan Wuestewald, Diana Dresser, Timothy McCracken, Leigh Miller, John Jurcheck and Justin Walvoord. It runs through Dec. 22 in the Space Theatre. Showtimes are variable because of a preponderance of student matinees during the week. Generally there are public performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 1:30 p.m. Sundays. Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site. Thanks: Lyle Raper, Alexandra Griesmer.

Video: Watch as the cast of “Jackie & Me” takes a field trip to a Lakewood batting cage, and gets a tour of Coors Field.

 

OPENING 135SMBW
Pictures of pictures of cast members arranged on a lit lobby tree. Not pictured: Kevin Lowry.

Opening No. 135: Betsy Stage’s “The Travesty of Lear”: There’s a new theater sheriff in town, and she’s doing things a little differently. Shannon McAndrews is the general manager of the Betsy Stage (not to be confused with Boulder’s BETC, also colloquially referred to as “Betsy”) and get this — the shows are all free. Always. And the actors get paid. Decently, even. How do they do it? There’s a benefactor, McAndrews says. A Lear with a kingdom, apparently, to partition out, only for the making of art. The company’s mission is to “adapt Elizabethan theater for a new audience.” Here, Shakespeare’s “King Lear” is set in the Old West. Lear is the owner of the Scarlet Slipper Saloon. Here he divides his kingdom by putting his three favorite prostitutes to the test. The script is rife with one-liners, but sticks to the Shakespeare in tone. They call in “Shakespeare spiked,” but it’s more like Shakespeare with a “Deadwood” ear. You may recognize some of the names — Phil Luna and Kevin Lowry, for example, but even those you might not recognize make for a pretty decent ensemble. Starring Michael Vasicek as Lear and also featuring Patti Murtha, Brooks Mullen, Michal Andrea Meyer, Jacob Abbas, Todd Simmonds, Elinor Reina, Jeannie Saracino, Jim Hitzke and R.J. Harris. Directed by Samantha McDermott. Again, all tickets are free … really … the bar is even run on an honor system. But please call for reservations, or email Lear@Betsystage.com (though you won’t be turned away if you don’t). “The Travesty of Lear” plays through Jan. 25. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays at 1133 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294 or go to betsy’s home page. Thanks: Jennifer McCray.

 

OPENING 134
Erik Edborg, left, and Andrew Horwitz backstage before Buntport’s “Electra Onion Eater.” Some photos … some completely candid photos … require no explanation.

Opening No. 134: Buntport Theater’s “Electra Onion Eater”: “Hilarious. Squeamish. Incorrigible … Sunburnt.” Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have stumbled upon Buntport Theater’s new slogan. Buntport kicks off its 13th season of innovative, organic and original collaboration with a modern adaptation of Sophocles’ classic yarn. Set in the kitschy pop-culture world of the 1970s, Electra waits patiently for her studly, sunburned brother (a hybrid of Selleck, Reynolds, Hasselhoff and Hutch, to return home in order to enact revenge on their mother for killing their father (who had killed their sister — you know, just the usual family dynamic). With nothing but time on her hands, Electra watches soap operas, cuts patches in her scalp and makes onion pies as offerings to the gods. Also featuring Erik Edborg, Hannah Duggan and guest star Drew Horwitz as … Bruce. And Samantha Schmitz pushing all the right buttons. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 23 at 717 Lipan St. Call 720-946-1388 or go to Buntport’s web page.

 

OPENING 132
Brian Landis Folkins puts one of his core performing skills — juggling — to useful use before a performance of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the Edge Theatre.

Opening No. 133: The Edge’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”: Brian Landis Folkins plays the boozy, brutal and broken Brick, who is tormented by the death of his best friend (and the incriminating inferences made about that friendship) in Tennessee Williams’ uncompromising tragedy, presented here in its ugly, unedited glory by director Angela Astle. In the tradition of O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” the play follows one long day of a Southern family in inebriated crisis. (But which came first? “Long Day’s Journey” was written 13 years earlier, but wasn’t published until a year after “Cat” won Williams a Pulitzer Prize in 1956.) The story is set on the night of a gathering at the family estate in Mississippi to celebrate the birthday and apparent good health of patriarch Big Daddy Pollitt (Russell Costen). Much like “Death of a Salesman,” the story is a constant joust between appearances and delusion and the malleable, elusive truth. And starving in the corner of this house of malice and death is a wounded, feral alleycat named Maggie (Maggy Stacy). Also featuring Emma Messenger, Marc Stith, Kelly Alayne Dwyer, Ryan Goold, Bob Byrnes, Geri Crawley, Banji Osindero, Sonsharae Tull, Amelia Modesitt, Sam Modesitt, Aliza Fassett and Pace Becker. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 17 at 1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or the edge’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Amelia Retureta, Rick Yaconis, Patty Yaconis. To see the entire “Opening Nights” photo series, click here: www.culturewest.org/?p=6068.

 

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Dawn Bower, left, and Sasha Fisher put the dancing in the “Dancing at Lughnasa” during a pre-show “dance call.”

Opening No. 132: 11 Minutes’ ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’: 11 Minutes Theatre Company’s “Dancing at Lughnasa”: The 11 Minutes may be one of the area’s newest theater companies, but they perform in the historic and cozy Arvada Festival Playhouse, believed to be the oldest building in Arvada. The company is the work of Janine Ann Kehlenbach, who has put together a tight and talented “Dancing at Lughnasa,” Irish playwright Brian Friel’s answer to “The Glass Menagerie.” It’s a memory play told intermittently through a narrator (a wonderful Andrew Uhlenhopp) as he remembers one summer in 1936 with his mother and four aunts. As he recounts the story, we go back in time and watch as these five feisty women confront their loves, hardships and a society whose customs are not changing fast enough. Also featuring Margaret Amateis Casart, @Sasha Fisher, Janet Mylott, Sara Michael, Dawn Bower, Kevin R. Leonard (“Sordid Lives”) and Charlie Ault as the uncle missionary who has just returned from an African leper colony with malaria. Ault’s family started the Festival Playhouse’s resident company (the Festival Players) nearly 80 years ago. Their next offering is “Somethin’ Special for Christmas,” opening Nov. 19. “Lughnasa” plays through Nov. 16. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; also 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14 at 5665 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., 303-422-4090, or go to the Festival Playhouse’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Janine Ann Kehlenbach, Amy Hanselmann and Donna Ault.

 

OPENING 131
“It’s been a year … did you miss me, Denver?” “Rancho Mirage” marks oft-honored freakyman actor Bill Hahn’s return to the stage since last appearing at Curious in “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.” Here, he plays a freakily normal-seeming suburban husband. Which, for Bill, is, you know … freaky.

Opening No 131: Curious Theatre’s “Rancho Mirage”: Colorado native Steven Dietz’s latest play continues Curious’ entire season of evident if perhaps unintentional looks at dysfunctional family relationships. Here, six longtime “friends” (?) gather for one final dinner party. The evening unfolds with comic surprises, alarming secrets and near-farcical bombshells. Also featuring Erik Sandvold, Emily Paton Davies, C. Kelly Leo, David Russell, Karen Slack and Devon James. Directed by Christopher Leo. Dietz is now the most produced playwright in Curious history. Dietz also wrote “Jackie & Me,” which will be performed by the Denver Center Theatre Company, opening Nov. 15. “Rancho” showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 7 at 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or Curious’ web page. Thanks: Sean Cummings, Kate Marie.

 

OPENING 130
Oooh, Edgar Allan Poe, he’s so scary, can’t you tell? From left: Nancy Flanagan, Seth Maisel, Kristin Mair and Michael Gurshtein yuk it up before one of the Byers-Evans House Theatre Company’s final performances before the troupe moves to RiNo as the new Ripple Effect Theatre Company.

Opening No. 130: Byers-Evans House Theatre Company’s “Evermore”: Maggie Stillman’s company, which specializes in the period macabre, is presenting its final show in the environs of the Byers-Evans House. She’s renaming her troupe the Ripple Effect Theatre Company and moving into a bona-fide theater in RiNo that is about to be vacated. (We’ll leave it to you to connect those dots.) Her goodbye to the museum tells the romantic whims and publishing difficulties of Edgar Allan Poe. We open October 1849. Poe has recently died, and his literary executor is compiling Poe’s works for posthumous publication. Memories of Poe’s final years full of love, hate, loss, and literature are played out through the memories of Dr. Griswold and Poe’s mother-in-law, Maria Clemm. Poe’s best-known tales and poems are woven into the dialogue. Featuring Seth Maisel, Kristin Mair, Michael Gurshtein and Nancy Flanagan. Directed by Ed Berry. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 16 at 1310 Bannock St., 303-620-4933. Thanks: Dana Huss, Orianna Keating and Maggie Stillman. Click here to see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series.

 

OPENING 129
Burke Walton works hard for your money … so you better treat him right.
Opening No. 129: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Full Monty”: The photo above shows a side of working the dinner-theater circuit that most audiences don’t see: The actors settling up at the end of each performance. (Most times they don’t do it in robes, but most times, it’s not “The Full Monty,” hah.) Most actors also bus tables for the tips that, combined with their acting stipends, help make for something approximating a liveable wage doing what they love to do on the stage. It’s a good opportunity to remind readers that when you attend theater that involves personal service, the performers are primarily working for your gratuity. OK, so back to “The Full Monty”: Based on the popular British film, this now ubiquitous tale has five unemployed steelworkers (moved for the stage to Buffalo) who come up with a bold way to make some quick cash: By taking off their clothes. In the process, they find renewed self-esteem and the importance of friendship. “The Full Monty” stars Seth Caikowski as Jerry, the gruff but well-meaning dad who’s desperate to make some cash to keep visitation rights with his son. Also featuring Joel Adam Chavez as Dave; Scott Beyette (also the director) as Harold, Burke Walton as Ethan, Brett Ambler as Malcolm, and longtime big-time vocalist Robert Johnson (17th Avenue All-Stars) as Horse. The cast also includes Alicia Dunfee, Shelly Cox-Robie, Amanda Earls, Jason Vargas, Joanie Brosseau, Scott Severtson, Tracy Warren, Jessica Hindsley, Norrell Moore, Bob Hoppe (alternating with Matthew D. Peters), and young Thomas Russo as Nathan (alternating with Kaden Hinkle). Showtimes: 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:45 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 1:30 and 7:45 p.m. Sundays (dinner service begins 90 minutes before) through Nov. 9 at 5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or go to BDT’s home page. Thanks: Michael J. Duran, Seamus McDonough, Neal Dunfee and Brian Jackson.

 

OPENING 128
The cast of the Evergreen Players’ “All My Sons” circles up for one last bit of bonding before taking the stage. Joe Wilson, left, had just left the pre-show ritual to take a final solitary moment in the dressing room before the play began. He plays Joe Keller.

Opening No. 128: Evergreen Players’ “All My Sons”: Arthur Miller wrote “All My Sons” as a final attempt at writing a commercially successful play. If the play failed to find an audience, he had vowed “to find some other line of work.” What resulted was perhaps his masterpiece. “All My Sons” is based on a true story a child who informed on her father who had sold faulty parts to the U.S. military during World War II. Asked in a TV interview what about the story had inspired him, Miller said, “I was fascinated by the idea that a child could have this kind of moral courage.” When asked why he changed the gender of the character for his play, Miller said, “At the time I didn’t understand women very well.” The cast features Joe Wilson, Jacquie Jo Billings, Jennifer Condreay, Jordan Crozier, Cindy Laudadio Hill, Brandon Palmer, Ken Paul, Eric Ritter, JR Cody Schuyler, and young Spencer Coffey as young Bert. Directed by Len Matheo. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 10 at Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or go to the Evergreen Players’ home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Rachael Henney. To see the entire “Opening Nights” series to date, click here.

 

OPENING 127
Among the many ridiculous tasks contestants must endure is having a salad tossed … onto your head. For starters.

No. 127: Off-Center @ The Jones’ “Wheel of Misfortune”: This new theatrical adventure from is billed as “the scariest game show ever.” It invites audience members to compete in everyday tasks that Vanna’s … er, Bruce’s magic Wheel of Misfortune makes terrifyingly difficult. Competitors must master trivia, solve puzzles and surmount ridiculous physical obstacles — all for your enjoyment. (If you are not one of the contestants). The two finalists will go head-to-head in a lightning round designed by the LIDA Project’s Brian Freeland. (He’s not only the purveyor of some of the freakiest theater in town, he’s moving to New York after all of this is over — so he has nothing to lose.) To maximize the contestants’ humiliation, “Wheel of Misfortune” is being videotaped, as any game show should be, for later airing as an online web series. They are touting “Wheel of Misfortune” as “the show that everyone might one day be possibly raving about.” The hosts are Bruce Montgomery, Mark Sonnenblink and Emily K. Harrison. The second of two initial tapings is at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 at The Jones, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 1101 13th St. (Speer Boulevard and Arapahoe Street), 303-893-6090 or off-center’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Jane McDonald, Charlie Miller, Emily Tarquin. To see the entire “Opening Nights” series to date, click here. Read my profile of game-show host Bruce Montgomery here.

 

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Opening No. 126: Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Vox Phamalia: G.I.M.P. Nation”: Who’s a douchebag? According to the Disability News Team (Daniel Wheeler, left, who has Crohn’s Disease, and Stewart Caswell, who has cerebral palsy), it’s the CEO of Goodwill Industries, who lobbied for legislation that allows businesses to pay the handicapped a fraction of minimum wage based on their performance on a test that measures their ability to complete ordinary tasks against able-bodied people. That’s one example of the cutting but good-natured comedy that director Edith Weiss gets out of her cast for this annual sketch-comedy revue. This year’s show features all-new material including “Sex and the Pity,” “Suicide Hotline” and “Your Own Private Hell.” Plus, they explore the subject of dwarf-tossing. Vox Phamalia is the result of an annual writing-to-performance development workshop with Weiss, designed for Phamaly members. The cast includes 15 actors with disabilities, including veterans Lucy Roucis, David Wright, Amber Marsh and James Sherman, along with new or near-new faces Harper Liles, Dominique Frary, Daniel Wheeler, Jeff Zinn, Khea Craig, Paul Migliorelli, Stewart Caswell, Kim Jackson and Naomi Morrow. Intended for audiences 16 and older. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m.; also 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Monday, Oct. 28) at the Laundry on Lawrence, 2701 Lawrence St., 303-575-0005 or phamaly’s home page. Thanks: Jean Egdorf and Gloria Shanstrom.

 

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There’s nothing elder about A.J. Holmes and Nic Rouleau, the young actors who play the idealistic Elders Cunningham and Price in the national touring production of “The Book of Mormon.” They are pictured here after the official opening night of the Tony-winning musical’s second national touring stop in Denver on Oct. 23. The party location was Pizza Republica.

Opening No. 125: National touring production of “The Book of Mormon.” When the first “Book of Mormon” national touring production debuted in Denver last year, the 51,000 available seats moved in five hours. By the time the longer return engagement opened here on Tuesday, nearly all of the 111,506 seats already were snatched up. Broadway’s 2011 Tony-winning best musical has moved from the Ellie Caulkins Opera House into the Buell Theatre, opening up about another 600 seats per performance. Like the first national company a year ago, the Denver engagement launches the second national tour with a new cast headed by Nic Rouleau, who plays Elder Price, and A.J. Holmes, who plays Elder Cunningham. The musical tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda, where a brutal warlord is threatening the local population. Naive and optimistic, the two missionaries try to share their scriptures – which only one of them knows very well – but have trouble connecting with the locals, who are more worried about war, famine, poverty and AIDS than about salvation. This profane, witty religious satire lampoons organized religion and traditional musical theater. It was written by Colorado natives Trey Parker and Matt Stone (“South Park”) with Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”). The cast includes Tallia Brinson, who appeared in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Ruined.” Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker. There are scattered single tickets remaining, and a daily lottery for 24 discounted, front-row seats will be held 2 1/2 before every performance. Contains explicit language. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 24. At the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s home page. Photo by John Moore. Thanks: Heidi Bosk.

 

OPENING 124
Pals and co-stars Steve Emily, left, and Matt Radcliffe enjoy a lighthearted backstage moment (Matt is pretending to toss scalding coffee in his partner’s face) before a recent performance of “A Steady Rain” in Colorado Springs.

Opening No. 124: “Springs Ensemble Theatre’s “A Steady Rain”: If you loved “The Shield” on FX, you are certain to get Vic Mackey flashbacks while watching the equally round-headed rogue cop played by Steve Emily in this uncompromising crime drama by Keith Huff. In the story, two cops are longtime partners, best friends since childhood … and seriously flawed human beings. One is single, a recovering alcoholic and lonely. The other is married with children, but there are clearly … shades of Mackey. What begins as a routine domestic disturbance call snowballs into an uncompromising downfall that tests their loyalties. For mature audiences. Through Oct. 27. Starring Steve (Vic Mackey) Emily as Denny and Matt Radcliffe as Joey. Directed by David Palmbeck. Remaining showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, plus 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, at 1903 E. Cache La Poudre in Colorado Springs. Call 719-447-1646 or go to springs ensemble’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.. Thanks: Keri Pollakoff and Keegan Jenney.

 

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Opening No. 123: The Catamounts’ “Failure,” A Love Story”: Meredith C. Grundei, playing one of the fated Fail Sisters, goes for a pre-show swim practice safe in the arms, er, feet, of castmates Ed Cord, front, and Ryan Wuestewald. Her character swims the Chicago River. “Failure” is a fanciful musical fable about the triumphs, aspirations and untimely demises of three Chicago sisters who never saw death coming. Set in 1928 in a clock shop on the edge of the Chicago River, this wistful comedy that tells the stories of all three sisters, and the one man who loved them all. “Failure” also features Joan Bruemmer, Ed Cord, Crystal Verdon Eisele, Michelle Hurtubise, Trina Magness, Jeremy Make and Jason Maxwell, with Nina Rolle providing live various music (which includes a bell on her head). There are four remaining performances, at 8 p.m. tonight (Oct. 21, all ticket sales will go toward flood relief in Boulder County), Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Oct. 26) at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder. The Saturday performance will be preceded by a community meal from a menu inspired by the play. Call 303-440-7826, or go to the The Catamounts’ home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.. Thanks: Andy Bakehouse

 

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Opening No. 122: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Most Deserving”: Hold that tiger! Or should I say, “Hold that, Tiger?” Sam Gregory wants you … to see him (very nearly ALL of him) in the Denver Center’s world premiere comedy about amateur art and amateur politics in a tiny West Kansas town. The local arts council has $20,000 to award to a hometown artist with an “under-represented American voice.” Should they choose the son of a town big-shot, thus guaranteeing their continued funding; or the mentally unstable, self-taught “Trash Man” who creates religious figures out of rubbish? Gregory, believe it or not, is NOT playing the unstable Trash Man. Rather, he’s a ponytailed British beatnik on the lookout for a shag. (And a member of the town arts council.) The play explores how gossip, politics and opinions of art can decide who is “the most deserving.” Also featuring Jeanne Paulsen, Judith Hawking, Rebecca Miyako Hirota, Craig Bockhorn and Jonathan Earl Peck (who once played Othello at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival). Written by Catherine Trieschmann. Directed by Shelley Butler. “The Most Deserving” runs through Nov. 17 at the Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets. Showtimes: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 1:30 p.m. Sundays. Call 303-893-4100 or go to the denver center’s home page. Thanks: Rachel Ducat, Mariah Becerra.

 

OPENING 121
Julia Hemp as Belle and Mateo Correa as Belle and Lumiere in the Denver School of the Arts’ no-holds-barred fall musical, “Beauty and the Beast.”

Opening No. 121: Denver School of the Arts’ “Beauty and the Beast”: Denver School of the Arts is an arts magnet school that serves grades 6-12 in the Denver Public Schools. It regularly produces such top-notch theater kids that recent graduate Gabriel Ebert just won the Tony Award as best supporting actor in a Broadway musical (for “Matilda”) — and he never even did musicals back at DSA. Saturday’s first-ever DSA Friends Foundation gala showed off students in every discipline, but centered on a no-holds-barred performance of “Beauty and the Beast.” Sporting a cast of more than 80, an orchestra of 25 and production values professional companies would theatrically die for, the students managed to produce a staging that, while still very much educational theater, managed to meet or exceed any reasonable professional expectations in several areas. DSA teacher Shawn Hann directed the spectacle (her first at the school in three years), and the endlessly creative choreography was by Brandon Becker. (“Be Our Guest” pulled a mid-show standing O — and it deserved it.) The results were so stirring, we can forgive the director for her absolutely adorable sucker-punch: Casting her cutey-pie 5-year-old daughter Tihun Hann as the Dinner Bell. The show starred Julia Hemp as Belle, Austin Marquez as the Beast, Logan D. Snodderly as Gaston, Jimmy Bruenger as Lefou (he played the spunky, doomed Gavroche in the Arvada Center’s “Les Mis” back in the day), Mateo Correa as Lumiere, Jeremy Willis as Cogsworth, Taylor Bowman as Mrs. Potts, Madison Kitchen as Bebette, Randy Ho as Maurice, Jackie Smook as the Wardrobe, and dozens more. Saturday’s performance was preceded by the presentation of the school’s first Community Arts Leadership Award, which went to “Just Like Us” author Helen Thorpe. The stage adaptation of Thorpe’s book opens for previews on Oct. 4 by the Denver Center Theatre Company. The award presenter was Susan Daggett, an environmental attorney, DSA mom and wife of Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. (Their daughter made a video appearance in the Denver Center’s production of “The Giver” last season.) Also in attendance was Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Read more about that here.

 

OPENING 120

Opening No. 120: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Seminar”: John Ashton capped a crazy week with a triumphant opening performance on Friday night. Three days before the opening performance, Ashton was deployed by his day job, FEMA, to working 12-hour daily shifts in response to the flooding in Boulder. The extra busy-ness didn’t seem to affect his performance. He’s pictured above before the show, running through a tense scene opposite stage manager Maxie Beth Bilyeu. In Theresa Rebeck’s latest exploration of nasty human behavior, four aspiring young novelists find themselves in over their heads when they sign up for private writing classes with Leonard, a force of nature and washed-up international literary figure (Ashton). Under his reckless instruction, the wordplay is not the only thing that turns vicious. Recommended for 16 and older. Featuring Matthew Blood-Smyth, Devon James, Mary Kay Riley and Sean Scrutchins. Directed by Stephen Weitz. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; plus 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 20 at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or betc’s home page. Thanks: Maxie Beth Bilyeu, Rebecca Remaly Weitz.

 

OPENING 119
Opening No. 119, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Death of a Salesman”: Some call this the most important play ever written, and after actors Mike Hartman and Lauren Klein conquered the iconic roles of Willy and Linda Loman on opening night, the real-life married couple deserved a party. Though they settled for a seat. Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama is the story of an aging, deluded and failing salesman who cannot accept that his dreams for his family are no match for the sad realities of their ordinary lives. This heartbreaking indictment of the American Dream is an actor’s dream. Showtimes: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 1:30 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 20 at the Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.

 

OPENING 118
Opening No. 118: National touring production of “Sister Act”: Kingsley Leggs plays bad-guy Curtis Jackson on stage, but in real-life, nice guy Kingsley makes the painfully early morning rounds with local radio stations, pictured here with KOOL 105’s Kris and Kelly, and later with KEZW’s Rick Crandall. Denver audiences know Kingsley from the extended world premiere of “Almost Heaven: Songs and Stories of John Denver” with the Denver Center Theatre Company. Now he’s playing in the movie-turned-musical that Whoopi Goldberg made famous. “Sister Act” tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a crime and the cops hide her in the last place anyone would think to look — a convent. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 6 at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.

 

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Opening No 117: The Wit Theatre’s “Edges: A Song Cycle”: The Wit Theatre Company executive director Kristin Honiotes congratulates the cast of “Edges, A Song Cycle” with a toast before the opening performance. That’s Alex Evert and Blake Nawa’a to her left. This non-traditional musical follows burgeoning adults sorting through classic coming-of-age questions. The songs cover universal issues such as love, commitment, identity and meaning. Characters confront emotions, escaping expectations and deciphering complicated relationships. Written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, recipients of the 2006 Jonathan Larson Award. Directed by Valerye Rene and featuring Marissa Romer, Blake Nawa’a, Tyler Nielson, Alex Evert, Erica Trisler, Nancy Begley, Juliet Garcia, Christopher Galinski and Chris Arneson. Showtimes: 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 5 at the Crossroads Theater, 2590 Washington St., 303-296-3798 or wit’s ticketing page at http://thewittheatrecompany.ticketleap.com/edges. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series to date, click here: www.culturewest.org/?p=6068

 

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Opening No. 116: Starkey Theatrix’s “Bingo, the Musical”: This audience-included musical comedy is about a group of die-hard Bingo players who let nothing get in the way of their weekly game. Best girlfriends Vern, Honey and Patsy brave a terrible rainstorm (life imitating art?) to get to their game. As the storm knocks out power at the Bingo hall, audiences learn of an another ominous night 15 years before that created a still-unresolved conflict. In-between the number-calling, superstitious rituals and fierce competitions, long-lost friends reunite. Audiences play three games of Bingo along with the cast. Directed by Ben Dicke and featuring Jona Alonzo, Sarah Grover, Lacey Connell, Jennifer Lynne Jorgenson, Alannah Moore, Laura Presley Reynolds and Josh Nelson. This special engagement runs this weekend only. Remaining showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Friday (Sept. 13); 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 14); 2 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 15). At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., Parker, 303-805-6800 or PACE’s ticketing page. Thanks: Shaun Albrechtson and Ronni Stark.

 

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Opening No. 115, Arvada Center’s “Camelot”: A shy young Nate Patrick Siebert, one of two boys who play Tom of Warwick, prepares to present castmate David Bryant Johnson, who plays King Arthur, with flowers at the cast party following Tuesday’s opening performance. This classic Lerner and Lowe musical focuses on the love triangle between King Arthur of England, his feisty Queen Guenevere; and the invincible French knight, Sir Lancelot. With one glimpse at the lovely Guenevere, Lancelot falls hopelessly in love, and the story becomes one of tragic consequence. Numbers include “The Lusty Month of May” and “If Ever I Would Leave You.” Directed by Rod Lansberry. Musical director David Nehls. Starring Johnson, Melissa Mitchell (Guenevere), Glenn Seven Allen (Lancelot), William Thomas Evans (Merlyn, Pellinore), Aaron M. Davidson (Mordred), Jennifer DeDominici (Nimue), Jeffrey Roark (Sir Dinadan), Michael Bouchard (Sir Sagramore), Matt LaFontaine (Sir Lionel) and Megan Van De Hey (Morgan Le Fey). Ensemble members are Stephen Day, Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Karen M. Jeffreys, Heather Lacy, Daniel Langhoff, Ian McCauley, Rebekah Ortiz, Parker Redford, Lauren Shealy, Jacob Lewis Smith, Bethany Swiontek, Rachel Turner and Benjamin Wood. Young Brady Dalton and Nate Patrick Siebert alternate as Tom of Warwick. Their show only just opened and it already has been extended to Oct. 6. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Matinees 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or the arvada center’s home page. Thanks: Melanie Mayner, Pat Payne, cast and crew.

 

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Is it Flash — ah-ah — savior of the universe?! Or Todd Black just being a big (non-strip) tease backstage before Monday’s performance of “Next Fall?”

Opening No. 114: Firehouse Theatre’s “Next Fall”: Luke is devoutly religious. Adam is an atheist. This Broadway play by Geoffrey Nauffts recounts the ups and downs of an unlikely gay couple’s five-year relationship, leading to an explosive familial confrontation following a critical accident. Starring Mark Lively and Todd Black, featuring Michael Leopard, Judy Phelan-Hill, Brian J. Brooks and Johanna Jaquith. Directed by Steve Tangedal. Co-produced by Theatre Out. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 6:30 p.m. Sundays Through Sept. 28 at the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehouse’s home page . Thanks: Andrew Hunter, Helen Hand.

My review of the Broadway production of “Next Fall”

Quote: “You don’t have to believe in hell to walk around believing that you are going to burn in it.”

This riveting, familiar family tragedy starts with a car accident that leaves a strapping young man comatose and clinging to life. But the real collision is about to come down between his lover and the encroaching fundamentalist family who never knew — or at least acknowledged — that their son is gay. Rife for the possibility of cliche, Geoffrey Nauffts’ drama instead deftly weaves one of the hot-button social issues of the day into an understandable and achingly unwinnable conflict between flawed, knowable characters on both sides of the family tree. Zigging from past to present (as most new plays now seem to do), we see how this unlikely romance bloomed between a spiritual (yet still closeted) southern Christian hunk and the jaded — and refreshingly kind of jerky — older New Yorker he somehow fell in love with.

The playwright raises fair points about the inherent contradictions of fundamentalism and the sadly nonexistent place a gay man has in making critical medical decisions for a loved one. But it’s flawed — it’s too long and gets ideologically confused by the unnecessary presence of one support character. It’s most compelling because the two immoveable forces here — the young man’s racist, homophobic father and his intractable lover — are both obstinately set in their ways. Still, I can’t remember the last new play I’ve seen that had audiences openly sobbing by the end. My main misgiving: The story ends in the only way you can imagine it might, and I was hoping the playwright might instead invoke his right to mess with our minds. That might have changed the questions we’re left with after an ending that, as written, leaves little doubt about who was right all along.

 

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Opening No. 113: Curious Theatre’s “After the Revolution”: Sisters! Lauren Bahlman, right, tries to get a rise out of Jessica Robblee before the opening curtain. In this new play by Amy Herzog, a passionate young woman named Emma Joseph proudly carries the torch of her family’s long-held Marxist ideals by devoting her life to the memory of her legendary, blacklisted grandfather. When a stunning revelation uncovers a dark secret, she and her entire family must reconcile everything they thought they stood for with the shadowy truth of history. Featuring Lauren Bahlman, Anne Oberbroeckling, Jessica Robblee, Mark Collins, Dee Covington, Jim Hunt, Matthew Block and Gordon McConnell. Curious Theatre has a resident company of more than 30 actors, but director Chip Walton has always had an open-door policy, and he proves it again here: Five of the eight actors are making their first appearances for Curious in “After the Revolution.” Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; also 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 19 at 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or Curious’ home page.

 

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This theatergoer, surrounded by cast members Chris Arneson, Jason Lythgoe and Patrick Brownson (and presumably, a friend!), looks like she’s not completely sure where the play ends and the real world begins.

Opening No. 112: Equinox Theatre’s “Evil Dead, the Musical”: The bloodletting spills out onto the streets in front of the Bug Theatre following every performance of “Evil Dead.” Meaning the eviscerated cast joins departing theatergoers for photo opportunities with chain saws and all manner of fake gore. This campy musical is based on Sam Raimi’s 1980s cult classic film. The story is the one you remember: A boy and his friends take a weekend getaway at an abandoned cabin. The boy expects to get lucky, but instead unleashes an ancient evil spirit. When his friends turn into Candarian Demons, the boy fights until dawn to survive. The score features comic numbers like, “All the Men in my Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons,” “Look Who’s Evil Now,” and “Do the Necronomicon.” (Take THAT, “Rocky Horrow Show.”) The show stars Jason Lythgoe as the smoldering Ash, with help from Chris Arneson, Erica Trisler, Savannah Lake, Natasha Gleichmann, Preston Adams, Ember Everett, Eli Stewart, Patrick Brownson, David Ballew and Aran Peters. The director is Deb Flomberg; musical direction by Hunter Hall. Just two performances remain, and they’ve been selling out: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13-14, at 3654 Navajo St. 720-984-0781 or Equinox’s home page. If you can’t get in, you’ll have a second, and third chance to get your taste of blood. Next up at the Bug is “Night of the Living Dead” (Oct. 4-26), followed by “Carrie, the Musical” (Nov. 8-30). Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series to date, click here: http://www.culturewest.org/?p=6068. Thanks: Kate Blair.

Click here to see our full gallery of “Evil Dead” photos.

 

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Opening No. 111: National touring production of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”: Well, with some photos, black-and-white is just not an option. Sept. 3 wasn’t just opening night of the national touring production of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” at the Buell Theatre. It was also Drag Night, with many of Denver’s top entertainers attending, bringing both vibrant color and the same air of freedom and tolerance the popular film, and now stage musical, espouses. Audiences were invited to have make-up makeovers. Audience members stopped some of Denver’s very tallest tall Drag Queens (in heels, many reach 6 1/2 feet in height) asking for everything from photos to make-up tips for advice on how to talk to loved ones. One Denver Drag said afterward she never felt more validated as an entertainer than she did in the lobby chatting with friendly, curious “Priscilla” audiences. The musical is the uplifting story of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus to cross the Australian outback. It features more than 500 Tony-winning costumes. All the songs are familiar dance-floor hits, including “It’s Raining Men” and “I Will Survive.” Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 15. Also: Special Thursday matinee: 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12. Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the Denver Center’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series to date, click here: http://www.culturewest.org/?p=6068. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Heidi Bosk, Emily Lozow. Click here to see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series to date.

 

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Photos: My night at Germinal’s ‘Spoon River Anthology’

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Actor Jim Miller made spoons adorned with individual faces as opening-night gifts for every cast and crewmember working on the Germinal Stage-Denver’s “Spoon River Anthology.”

 

By John Moore
Feb. 15, 2013

Opening No. 27, Feb. 10: Germinal Stage-Denver’s final season in its longtime northwest Denver home continues with its third staging of “Spoon River Anthology,” Edgar Lee Masters’ look at small-town America through the eyes and epitaphs of its dead people. The building has been sold and will be renovated into mixed retail space after Germinal finishes there in August. After that, the company plans to occasionally perform in rented theaters around the city. “Spoon River Anthology” features Leroy Leonard, Jennie McDonald, Deborah Persoff, Jim Miller, Lisa Mumpton and Michael Gunst. Directed by Ed Baierlein. Through March 17 at 2450 W. 44th Ave., 303-455-7108 or germinal’s home page. Photo by John Moore of www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks to Ed Baierlein, Sallie Diamond, Tad Baierlein and Andrew Parker.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 27 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

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

 

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The familiar and well-trod back entrance to the venerable Germinal Stage-Denver in northwest Denver. Open the door and you are welcomed by a waft of signature pipe smoke that has seeped into the walls over the years. The photo of founder Ed Baierlein working the box office, below, offers a major clue as to the origin of that.

 

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The note that connects the two photos that hang above Germinal founder Ed Baierlein’s desk reads, “There are always two points of view regarding any proposition.” That’s a photo of a young Baierlein on the left. No word on the source of the photo on the right.

 

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Prominent on the Germinal’s wall of past production photos is one from the first time Germinal staged Edgar Lee Masters’ “Our Town”-like classic, “Spoon River Anthology,” in October 1980.

 

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The 2013 cast just happened to be rehearsing the very same seance scene that is depicted in that 1980 photo above.

 

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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 ,

 

 

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

Ed Baierlein moved his company to northwest Denver in 1987. The building will shutter in August. Photo  by John Moore.

Ed Baierlein moved his Germinal Stage-Denver theater company to northwest Denver in 1987. The building will shutter in August. Photo by John Moore.

 

By John Moore
Dec. 30, 2012

The definition of the word germinal is “embryonic,” and even at age 39, Denver’s venerable Germinal Stage-Denver theater company is about to take on a whole new life form.

Ed Baierlein on Friday completed the sale of his theater property at 44th Avenue and Alcott Street to Denver real-estate developer Jack Pottle for approximately $675,000. While the sale will mark the end of the building as a theater after 25 years and more than 130 productions in northwest Denver, “I stress that this is not the end, but rather the beginning of an exciting new phase in the history of Germinal Stage-Denver,” said Baierlein. He plans to continue to stage up to three quintessentially Germinal plays a year, but as rental tenants in area locations yet to be determined.

Pottle is a fourth-generation Denverite known in the neighborhood for developing Tejon34, a 28-residence property at the corner of 34th Avenue and Tejon Street. Pottle’s grandfather was a shoe cobbler who operated out of the northeast corner of the original Germinal building when it was constructed in 1926. In a sentimental twist, Pottle plans to re-open his grandfather’s cobbler shop in its original location. As a whole, Baierlein expects Pottle to redevelop the property “into a really interesting neighborhood feature,” one made up of mixed-use retail businesses anchored by a restaurant.

From "The Actor's Nightmare," earlier in 2012.

From “The Actor’s Nightmare,” earlier in 2012.

Baierlein will complete previously scheduled reprisal productions of “Spoon River Anthology” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” before ending his 39th season — and the theater’s present era at 2450 W. 44th Avenue — with a large-cast production of a title Germinal has never staged before, so that he can bring back together as many company veterans as possible for the building’s swan song. The leader in the clubhouse: Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” Baierlein had previously scheduled “Marat/Sade” for that slot, “but I don’t want to go out that way now,” he said.

For sentimental reasons, Baierlein also plans to host a limited return engagement of one of his favorite Germinal stagings, “Offending the Audience,” from 1976. That’s a 45-minute polemical lecture about theater written by Australian Peter Handke. “I think it should be done every 10 years, frankly, to remind people what the theater experience is all about,” Baierlein said.

The sale of the Germinal property ends a four-year ordeal in which Baierlein sought buyers who might keep operating his space as a theater. But the only remotely credible inquiry came from Paragon Theatre, a company that has since folded.

“I think of this as a rebirth,” said longtime Germinal actor Erica Sarzin-Borrillo, who will star in “Long Day’s Journey into Night” in May as matriarch Mary Tyrone. “The theater itself is kind of magical … but what is going on behind the scenes is another story.”

That other story, Baierlein said, is that the building is falling apart. So his choice was simple: Keep up with ongoing maintenance issues — and go belly-up — or sell the building, be freed from those financial constraints, and live on elsewhere.

“The burden of continuing repairs on our aging structure has become an impossible task for us to contemplate,” Baierlein said. The building has groundwater contamination from a dry cleaner that operated on the premises long ago, as well as asbestos lodged in the ground tiles. No one has ever been at any risk, he emphasized, but the new owner will have to deal with those consequences once he guts the interior.

Baierlein, 69, has directed most of the Germinal’s 325 productions and has acted in more than 100. “I don’t think there is another actor or director who works more than I do, as far as overseeing 100 performances a year in so many varying capacities, including designing,” he said. “It gets to be a treadmill.”

At an age when Baierlein would be excused for retiring to his favorite place next to a theater — “playing golf at Willis Case Golf Course,” he said — “I still enjoy directing and performing. I just think it is important for me to do what I want to do now, when I want to do it.”

Baierlein, wife Sallie Diamond and Ginger Valone opened the original Germinal Stage-Denver at 1820 Market St. on Nov. 7, 1974. It was then an 82-seat theater in a rundown Lower Downtown warehouse district. Baierlein moved to his present 100-seat theater in 1987.  Baierlein has always liked to call Germinal “the runt stepchild of  small, nonprofit theaters — a corner grocery of Thespis holding its own against the supermarkets.”

Ironically, the Germinal building was originally built as a Safeway store in 1926. Just before Baierlein moved in, it was being used as a tropical-fish emporium.

“The move from downtown was a wrenching experience, but we soon found that our designated audience came with us and supported us as never before,” Baierlein said.

He calls those early days in northwest Denver the Halcyon Days for his theater. Germinal has consistently offered audiences organic, disturbing and, above all, challenging works. The repertoire has included postmodern reinterpretations of classic writers Molière and Shakespeare, recent masters George Bernard Shaw and Luigi Pirandello, modernists Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, and cutting-edge contemporaries such as David Rabe and David Mamet. Mix in Henrik Ibsen, Arthur Kopit, A.R Gurney and Alan Ayckbourn, and Germinal has been nothing if not theater with chops.

“The plays I like all depend a great deal on language, and the playwrights value language in very different ways,” Baierlein said. “I think they are all kind of soft-edged, also, in that they leave a lot of room for interpretation. The plays that we have done are all actor’s pieces. None of them are directors’ pieces. And that’s because I value performance over all else.”

Jack Pottle

Jack Pottle

Pottle, the new property owner, developed his fortune over more than 25 years in the cable TV and telecommunications industries, most recently as the CEO of a telephone company he based out of West Virginia and sold in 2005. He graduated with a degree in political economy from Colorado College and received his masters degree in economics from the University of Colorado. He’s now a partner with Viridian Investment and has taken a special interest in what he calls the “careful redevelopment” of the Sunnyside neighborhood where his grandparents long lived.

Baierlein was named The Denver Post Theater Person of the Year in 2007, but Germinal has not been doing well at the box office the past three years, he said. “It was typical for us to draw 120 a night in the mid-1980s, but now we’re drawing 40.”

Baierlein has been running the theater these past few years with his wife and son, Tad. All three have taken halved salaries — or deeper — to keep the building afloat in recent years, he said.

“It’s not that people don’t love what we are doing,” Baierlein said. “It’s that the people who do love what we are doing are dying off.”

What happened? The stories that Baierlein most wants to tell, he said, the ones that felt fresh and new when he first started, are now largely 40 to 100 years old — or more.

“The stuff we were doing in the 1960s was never followed up upon,” said Baierlein, citing iconic Theatre of Cruelty writers Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook and Antonin Artaud. “Nobody wrote plays based on the things that we were learning about theater production and the value of performance in the 1960s, with the exception of people like David Rabe and, later on, Tony Kushner. All of our best writers now are either writing for the screen or writing novels. Now people only want to see the latest thing from New York — even when it’s a terrible play.”

Baierlein also points to rising ticket prices. Germinal’s have gone from $3.75 in 1974 to $23.75 today. That’s still modest by live theater standards, but still, Baierlein said, “Doing theater has become much more expensive than it ever should have. Here I am, almost 70 years old, and I have to consider whether I want to go out and spend $25 to go see the theater. That’s a lot of money. It buys me a lot of tobacco.”

He refers to his pipe smoking, and while faithful Germinal theatergoers surely will adjust to seeing Baierlein and his cast of regulars such as Terry Burnsed, Lori Hansen, Leroy Leonard, Sarzin-Borrillo and others on area stages, it will never be the same for future patrons as now walking into the back door of the Germinal and being overcome by that waft of Baierlein pipe smoke that is now seemingly leeched into the walls.

“That’s one of the hardest parts about moving again,” Baierlein said. “Wherever I go next …  they won’t let me smoke!”

 

FIVE  SEMINAL PRODUCTIONS IN GERMINAL STAGE-DENVER HISTORY:

“Spoon River Anthology,” by Edgar Lee Masters (returning Feb. 8-March 17)
“Don Juan in Hell,” by George Bernard Shaw
“Long Day’s Journey into Night,” by Eugene O’Neill (returning May 3-June 9)
“The Glass Menagerie,” by Tennessee Williams
“The Homecoming,” by Harold Pinter

GERMINAL STAGE-DENVER: SCHEDULE AND INFORMATION:
2450 W. 44th Ave., 303-455-7108 or germinal’s home page

Through Jan. 6, 2013: “The Long Christmas Dinner”
Feb. 8-March 17, 2013: “Spoon River Anthology”
May 3-June 9, 2013: “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
July 19-Aug. 25, 2013: Title to be determined.

 

Ed Baierlein has resolved to keep his Germinal-Stage Denver company theater going into his 70th year, at new locations to be determined. Photo  by John Moore.

Ed Baierlein has resolved to keep his Germinal-Stage Denver company theater going into his 70th year, at new locations to be determined. Photo by John Moore.

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