Neck injury ends Thompson’s son’s football career at Drake

From left, Alex Thompson, then 11, with Kathleen McCall and Kent Thompson as they prepared to leave Birmingham, Ala., and move to Denver in 2005. Photo by Phil Scarsbrook, Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

 

By John Moore

Sept. 21, 2012

Except for perhaps opening nights, nothing made Kent Thompson’s face light up like watching his son play football.

Check that: Nothing made Kent Thompson’s face light up like watching his son play football.

The Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director and proud papa loved talking about Alex Thompson’s progress at Cherry Creek High School, and sneaking away on weekends to catch his games. In four years, he never missed one.

Alex was a highly sought recruit, and Thompson chronicled their recruiting adventures on Twitter from Florida to Northwestern to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where Alex ultimately decided to attend college and play Division I football as a linebacker.

Thompson’s most recent Tweet remains the one he sent during a recruiting visit to Drake with Alex on Jan. 15, 2011: “Des Moines. Visiting football program at Drake with Alex. Very cold. Good school. Good program.”

Alex Thompson. Photo courtesy Drake University.

Alex suffered a career-ending neck injury during the opening kickoff of the Bulldogs’ game at Indiana State last Saturday (Sept. 15). The 6-foot-1, 230-pound sophomore linebacker lay on the field for more than 10 minutes as medical personnel attended to him. “He lost sort of all feeling,” head coach Chris Creighton told the Des Moines Register. “In his words, he thought he was paralyzed.”

Drake assistant athletic director Ty Patton told the Register’s Tommy Birch that Thompson was diagnosed with a disk slide under his C3 vertebra, effectively ending his football career. On Monday, the Register reported, Thompson returned to practice standing, wearing a neck brace, and became emotional while  addressing coaches and teammates before practice.

Kent Thompson opened his seventh season as DCTC artistic director last night (Sept. 20) with August Wilson’s “Fences.” Productions of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Giver” open in the next two weeks.

Kent Thompson, son of a Baptist minister, lost his first wife, Carol, in 1997, after a five-year battle with cancer. The couple adopted Alex from a Korean woman in 1993, when Carol was in remission. “There is always something around the corner that seems to be just kind of a miracle,” Thompson said of Alex in a 2005 interview.

Since his son was 4, Kent Thompson has raised Alex  with his second wife, DCTC actress Kathleen McCall.

McCall hails from a line of Colorado high-school football legends. Her father, Don McCall, was a coach for 34 years at Douglas County High School. Her brother, Mick McCall, is the offensive coordinator at Northwestern; and her other brother, Randy McCall, is an NCAA basketball referee and former athletic director at Cherry Creek High School.

At Cherry Creek High School, Alex received 34 “Bruin Awards” for Performance Recognition during games.

“I’m outgoing, competitive, pretty passionate person and a leader,” Alex Thompson told www.nationalunderclassmen.com in 2010. He was also very active in the community. He volunteered with the Denver Rescue Mission and The Crossing (a halfway house for homeless families) and worked to make Cherry Creek High School a hate-free zone.

“We work to make our school a no-hate school; no hate, no discrimination. I’m a facilitator, teaching and sharing leadership skills and activities on how to get to know each other,” he told the web site.  “People are scared of things that are not like them and things they don’t understand.”

For as important as football is to Alex Thompson, he let the web site know his priorities were clear.

“First  is education,” said Thompson, who aspires to be a writer.  “I plan to use football to get the best education I can. Second is football. Third is the environment.”

Kent Thompson talked about life as a football father with The Denver Post’s Bill Husted in 2009.

George Hamilton out of Denver run of “La Cage Aux Folles”

George Hamilton and the company of “La Cage Aux Folles.” Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik

 

By John Moore

Sept. 14, 2012

George Hamilton, the 73-year-old star of the national touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” will not perform in any remaining performances of the run in Denver, which closes at the Buell Theatre on Sept. 16.

Todd Thurston

The Denver Center released only the following statement: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Mr. Hamilton will not be performing September 11-16.No further information was forthcoming.

Hamilton’s understudy Thursday night was Dale Hensley, who normally plays Frances. Todd Thurston, who played Mr. Oleson in the touring production of “Little House on the Prairie, the Musical” that visited Denver last year, is listed as another possible replacement.

In an interview with The Denver Post on Sept. 5, Hamilton mentioned his injury history with the show, including a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on the night of his very first performance as Georges a year ago. He had a knee replacement, “and my Achilles was torn in half,” he said.

“As you do this show each week, the fatigue level gets more,” Hamilton added, although there was no confirmation from the Denver Center whether those injuries had anything to do with Hamilton’s withdrawal this week.

“Bloody Bloody” star released from Aurora hospital

If you split your head open, break four ribs and puncture your lung, Ben Dicke figures … you might as well get a marketing poster out of it. That’s a quote from “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” Photo by Joseph Bearss.

 

By John Moore

Sept. 9, 2012

Ben Dicke, the producer, director and star of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” whose fall down a trap door at the Aurora Fox Theatre forced a cancellation of the opening performance less than two hours before it was to begin, was released this morning from the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora.

Dicke broke four ribs, cut his head and punctured a lung when he fell about 8 feet down an unseen open trap door along a backstage walkway late Friday afternoon. Scheduled performances tonight  (Sept. 9) and Monday (Sept. 10) have been canceled. Opening night now will be Friday, Sept. 14.

While doctors have told Dicke to expect a recovery time of 6-8 weeks, the Bloody-but-not-bowed Dicke is not yet prepared to say he won’t be on the Aurora Fox studio theater stage on Friday portraying Andrew Jackson as a brooding but erudite modern-day emo-rock star in the big-buzz musical whose mystique – and buzz – have only grown since Dicke’s 42-hour stint in the hospital.

“I am going to treat it like an NFL player’s injury,” Dicke said this morning. “We’re going to get a  backup ready to go, and I think it’s going to be a game-time decision.”

That backup is  Andrew Diessner, who recently starred in the Aurora Fox’s production of “Xanadu.” He was cast in the role of “Bandleader,” which requires him to sing, dance and play bass with the band. If it is necessary for Diessner to play Jackson, musical director and keyboardist Jason Tyler Vaughn would take on the additional “Bandleader” performing responsibilities, while a new bass player would be added to the band.

There are several factors weighing against Dicke being able to  resume performing, at least right away — not the last being the broken ribs and “debilitating” shoulder pain that Dicke says was exacerbated by spending hours in the ER in a neck brace. He has developed significant bruising along his back from the broken ribs.  The role of Jackson is a physically demanding one, complete with stage fights and even concert-style stage-diving. More important, it is a  demanding vocal role, so the biggest obstacle may be Dicke’s lung capacity. “That’s the thing I think would be the most challenging,” he said.

It is extremely difficult — and painful — for an actor to sing with rib pain exacerbated by diminished lung capacity. Working in Dicke’s favor is his peak physical condition. He’s an ultra-runner who recently completed the Leadville Trail 100-mile running race in 30 hours. Doctors were amazed by Dicke’s performance on breathing tests in the hospital, given the extent of his injuries. “Luckily I am pretty strong, and I am probably in the best shape of my life,” Dicke said.

As a self-producer, Dicke has been working tirelessly for months to finance this first-ever Colorado staging of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” including running for 24 hours straight on a treadmill on Denver’s 16th Street Mall to help finance the production. So he was understandably devastated having to cancel the opening weekend of performances. But “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” will have an uncommonly long run for local theater — through Oct. 28 — so he hopes anyone who had tickets this weekend will reschedule.

Dicke has taken heart, and some ribbing — pun intended — from the hundreds of get-well messages that have come his way from all over the country through social media. The most common, in effect: “Please don’t take the title of your show so literally.”

This morning, he responded to well-wishers bt posting: “Seeing all the prayers and love and support here on Facebook and in my texts and from my phone calls has definitely sped up my recovery time. Perhaps it’s time to release some of the ER photos!”

Hey, Dicke still has an expensive production  to market.

And he just can’t stand the idea of possibly missing his opening night.

“I’ve been sitting here calculating the hours until Friday and thinking, ‘Well, what will I feel like by Wednesday? …’ and, ‘What will I feel like by Friday? …’ ”

Here’s more  on “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” which  CultureWest.Org last week ranked  No. 2 on its list of the 11 most intriguing fall theater titles.

To order tickets or to move reservations, call 303-739-1970. Tickets also can be purchased online at the Aurora Fox’s web site.