2013 True West Award nominations: Town Hall leads balanced field with 14 nods

 

 

TPOY COLLAGE

The prestigious 2013 True West Theater Person of the Year Award will be considered among John Ashton, Ed Baierlein, Shelly Bordas, Brian Freeland, Linda Morken, Erin Rollman, Edith Weiss, Stephen Weitz, Christopher Willard and Rick Yaconis. Weitz, winner of the 2012 award, is the rare winner to be up for consideration two years running.

By John Moore
Dec. 22, 2013

A prolific and creatively surprising year in Colorado theater is reflected in the 2013 True West Award nominations released today.

The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. And for just the second time, the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton leads the way with 14 nominations, largely on the strength of  widely varying stagings of “Hair,” “9 to 5, The Musical” and “The 39 Steps.”

Perennial awards leader the Arvada Center is next with 11 finalists. The Aurora Fox has 10, followed by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and the resurgent Colorado Shakespeare Festival with nine each. Curious Theatre, Buntport Theater and the LIDA Project have eight each.

“Hair”and the Midtown Arts Center of Fort Collins’ “Les Miserables” are the most nominated musicals of 2013, with eight each.

Among plays, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” leads all productions with eight finalists, followed by Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size,” with seven. The LIDA Project, known for its original, multimedia-infused works, had its best year, with “R.U.R./lol” garnering five nods.

The prestigious 2013 True West Theater Person of the Year Award will be considered among John Ashton, Ed Baierlein, Shelly Bordas, Brian Freeland, Linda Morken, Erin Rollman, Edith Weiss, Stephen Weitz, Christopher Willard and Rick Yaconis. Weitz, winner of the 2012 award, is the rare winner to be back up for consideration two years running. The winner will join previous honorees including Maurice LaMee, Anthony Garcia, Kathleen M. Brady, Wendy Ishii, Ed Baierlein, Chip Walton and Michael R. Duran.

In all, 38 companies and 57 productions received at least one True West nod. To be eligible, a play must only have been seen (with certain exceptions). This year, more than 135 productions were seen, of which 118 were eligible for awards consideration. This year, a total of 58 companies had at least one play seen. Here is the complete list of all eligible productions.

The official winners will be announced next Sunday, Dec. 29. Readers are again encouraged to have their say by voting for their favorites in designated “readers choice” categories. To vote, click here. Any production by any company staged from December 2012 to December 2013 is eligible for readers-choice designation. Readers who do not see their favorites among the finalists are encouraged to use the write-in option. Voting is open through 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28. The program accepts only one vote per IP address.

While some fervently believe awards have no place in the creative process, I think it is important to properly acknowledge and archive the year just past for posterity. Theater companies also benefit from awards nominations in their grant-writing and fundraising efforts.

So with great apologies to the many actors and shows I did not get to see in 2013, I humbly present my agonizing, loving look back at the year in Colorado theater. I say “agonizing” because the theater community never gets to see these lists before they are culled down from, in some cases, more than 30 names that are truly worthy of consideration.

Congratulations to anyone who wrote dialogue, got up on a stage, or played in part in creating theater in 2013. And remember: Click here to take the readers’ choice survey.

 

CULTURE WEST’s 2013 TRUE WEST AWARD NOMINEES:

THEATER PERSON OF THE YEAR:

  • John Ashton: The former theater critic produced the black Irish comedy “The Seafarer” at the Aurora Fox and at Dairy Center for his own new company, Ashton Entertainment. He also performed in “The Seafarer” and Boulder Ensemble’s “Seminar.” And he directed Thingamajig’s “Good People” in Pagosa Springs. All while on call for his day job at FEMA, which deployed him for duty in response to the Boulder floods on the very same week that he opened in the leading role in “Seminar.”
  • Ed Baierlein: Since 1974, the founder of Germinal Stage-Denver has been presenting plays of substance in an intimate setting. This year, after more than 200 productions, Baierlein sold his longtime home in northwest Denver and went on “active hiatus.” But not before staging a nostalgic and sentimental  (for Germinal) soiree: Baierlein brought more than 40 familiar faces back for a reprise of the anything-goes theatrical rumination “Offending the Audience,” which in the 1970s incited an on-stage rebellion that brought the police.  Baierlein says of his future:  “Licking our wounds, we now contemplate a pro-cannibalism-themed season in a new location for 2014.”
  • Shelly Bordas: This longtime actor and children’s theater educator started her year with a modest goal: Making it to opening night of the Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5, The Musical.” After having fought breast cancer for nearly four years, Bordas was given a fleeting respite when she was told her cancer was receding. So she tried out for — and scored — the role of the office drunk. Bordas had to drop out when her diagnosis suddenly changed: Her cancer had spread to her brain, and she was told her time to live was short. So she then focused on making it to son Nathan’s 4th birthday in April. Bordas’ story galvanized the theater community and beyond, raising more than $30,000, which was used both to help with medical expenses and to send Shelly and her son on a Disney cruise, a dream they realized in May. Meanwhile, Bordas managed to direct 10 shows, five of which were musicals, involving 177 of her young theater students at the Town Hall Arts Center.– all while undergoing 26 chemo treatments. The greatest news of all: She’s still here.
  • Brian Freeland: Nearly 20 years later, the founder of the LIDA Project continued to break new ground as the primary purveyor of modern, multimedia-based original stage work in Denver, as evidenced most tellingly in “The Hairy Ape.” In Freeland’s world, all of the female characters were played by mannequins. Pre-recorded video of a single actor’s face reciting each character’s lines was projected onto the mannequin heads, making for a hologram-like effect. Freeland is also a busy sound and video designer for theaters ranging from Curious to Town Hall. This week, he moved with his family to New York, but he says he is committed to keeping the LIDA Project alive and flourishing — after a short respite in early 2014.
  • Linda Morken: I almost gave up keeping track of all the shows she designed and built costumes for in 2013. But here’s a stab at it: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s entire season: “Church Basement Ladies,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Full Monty” and “Spamalot”;  Phamaly’s entire season of “The Foreigner,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”; Town Hall Arts Center’s “Forever Plaid,” “Hair” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”; Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”; and Starkey Theatrix’s “Noises Off.” Whew.
  • Erin Rollman: In addition to keeping the Buntport Theater rolling along, she collaborated on and performed in three original plays. She also runs mid-week programming such as “The Great Debate” and “Third Tuesday.” She also gave her pal Adam Stone’s new Screw Tooth Theatre Company not only a home, but a prayer of truly establishing itself.  In her spare time, Rollman worked on Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s year-long Imagine 2020 campaign, which created a blueprint for the future of arts and culture in Denver. All that, and a kidney, too: Rollman gave up one of hers to a complete stranger in Virginia, starting a donation chain that saved nine lives. And her story inspired at least one other altruistic donor to start another one.
  • Edith Weiss: Denver’s Queen of Comedy is making a huge impact on people’s lives through the handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company, where she directed a very funny — and cutting — staging of “The Foreigner,” before again stewarding a group of disabled actors through a workshop process that culminated in “Vox Phamilia 6: G.I.M.P. Nation.” That’s an annual evening of caustic sketch comedy written and performed by handicapped actors. Weiss also directed the very cute children’s production of “No Dogs Allowed”  for the Arvada Center — and destroyed her own comfort zone when she appeared in an experimental freakout called “Some Kind of Fun” with a bunch of rad kids from a new company called Screw Tooth.
  • Stephen Weitz: Last year’s True West “Theatre Person of the Year” outdid himself in 2013. Attendance at the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company he founded was up 42 percent in its seventh season. And thanks to an innovative partnership with the Denver Center to co-present “The SantaLand Diaries” at the Galleria Theatre (an almost completely sold-out engagement), BETC’s season attendance is projected to rise another 63 percent this season. The budget has grown from $12,000 in Season 1 to $232,000 in Season 8, and giving was up 41 percent last year. Weitz directed “Bach at Leipzig,” “Seminar” and “SantaLand” for his own company, and also “Jackie & Me” for the Denver Center Theatre Company.
  • Christopher Willard: The artistic director of the newly renamed Breckenridge Backstage Theatre has launched a $1.3 million expansion just as the venerable mountain theater is entering its 40th season. The renovation will include doubling the size of the present seating area, along with an expanded lobby and dressing rooms. Ticket sales are up by 29 percent over the past two years. Willard, who intends for Breckenridge Backstage Theatre to reach full professional status by 2018, recently hired the company’s first Executive Director (Mark Lineaweaver). Backstage stages plenty of family favorites, but has also kept an ongoing commitment to developing  new works. Up next: “The 10th,”  the first in a planned series of original plays about  Breckenridge. The initial focus is on the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who, upon returning from the campaign in Europe, helped create the ski industry in Colorado. In addition to directing several shows for Backstage, Willard directed the Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5 The Musical.” It was his job to help his team navigate the emotional roller-coaster of cast member Shelly Bordas’ terminal cancer diagnosis. (See above.)
  • Rick Yaconis: The founder of the grassroots Edge Theatre moved into a new home in Lakewood and upped the the company’s game with an ambitious 2013 season that culminated with the full staging of “Gifted,” winner of the company’s national new-play competition. Yaconis has of late brought in a steady stream of accomplished area actors, a trend that should become even more apparent in 2014, when former Paragon Theatre co-founder Michael Stricker directs Martin McDonaugh’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.” That will star first-time guest artists Michael Bouchard and Emily Paton Davies. Other edge-worthy titles will include “Orphans,” “A Steady Rain” and “Buried Child.”

BEST YEAR BY A COMPANY:
Arvada Center:
“Blithe Spirit”
“Man of La Mancha”
“Dividing the Estate”
“Curtains”
“Camelot”
“A Christmas Carol”

Boulder’s Dinner Theatre:
“Church Basement Ladies”
“The Wizard of Oz”
“The Full Monty”
“Monty Python’s Spamalot”

Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company

“Ghost-Writer”
“The Other Place”
“Bach at Leipzig”
“Seminar”
“The SantaLand Diaries”

Colorado Shakespeare Festival:
“Macbeth”
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
“Richard II”
“Women of Will”

Phamaly Theatre Company:
“The Foreigner”
“Fiddler on the Roof”
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
“Vox Phamilia: G.I.M.P. Nation”

BEST DRAMA:
Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Boulder Ensemble’s “Ghost-Writer”
Aurora Fox’s “Metamorphoses”
Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer”
Springs Ensemble Theatre’s “A Steady Rain”

BEST MUSICAL:
Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Fiddler on the Roof”
Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”

BEST COMEDY:
Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”
OpenStage’s “Bullshot Crummond”
Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
The Avenue’s “Motherhood Out Loud”
Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”

BEST NEW PLAY
Buntport Theater’s “Wake”
LIDA Project’s “R.U.R/lol”
Buntport Theater’s “Electra Onion Eater”
The Edge’s “Newark Violenta”

BEST YEAR BY AN ACTOR:
Seth Caikowski:
Franklin Hart, Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5, The Musical”
Cowardly Lion, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”
Juan, Arvada Center’s “No Dogs Allowed”
Jerry, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Full Monty”

Sam Gregory:
Dan, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner”
The Friar, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Romeo and Juliet”
Johann Friedrich Fasch, Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”
Banquo, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Macbeth”
Northumberland, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Richard II”
Count du Rochefort, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers”
Ted Atkinson, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Most Deserving”

Wayne Kennedy:
Pastor Gunderson, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Church Basement Ladies”
The Wizard, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”
King Arthur, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Spamalot”

Matt LaFontaine:
Jinx, Midtown Arts Center’s “Forever Plaid”
The Emcee, Ignite’s “Cabaret”
Berger, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Sir Lionel, Arvada Center’s “Camelot”
Ross Cochrane, Arvada Center’s Curtains”
Ensemble, Arvada Center’s “A Christmas Carol”

Seth Maisel:
Clown, Town Hall’s “The 39 Steps”
Edgar Allan Poe, Byers-Evans’ “Evermore”
Frederick Frankenstein, Vintage Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein”

Eric Mather:
George Pidgeon, Backstage Theatre’s “Out of Order”
Larry, Vintage Theatre’s “Closer”
Clown, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”
Lumiere, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast”
Performer: The Avenue’s “Complete World of Sports, Abridged”

James O’Hagan-Murphy:
Robert Kennedy, Vintage Theatre’s “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”
Dr. Parker, Equinox Theatre’s “Bat Boy, the Musical”
Richard Hannay, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”
Stanley, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Death of a Salesman”

Jeremy Palmer:
Charlie Baker, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “The Foreigner”
Perchik, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Fiddler on the Roof”
George Bailey, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Tyrell  D. Rae:
Hud, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Harpo, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Seaweed, Evergreen Players’ “Hairspray”
Don Joe, Arvada Center’s “No Dogs Allowed”

Sean Scrutchins:
Tony Kirby, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ “You Can’t Take it With You”
Lysander, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Malcolm, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Macbeth”
Henry Percy, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Richard II”
Martin, Boulder Ensemble’s “Seminar”

BEST YEAR BY AN ACTRESS:
Rhonda Brown:
Kay, Aurora Fox’s “Consider the Oyster”
Waitress, Lone Tree Arts Center’s “Hank Williams: Lost Highway”
Truvy, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Molly Ivins, LIDA Project’s “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins”

Rachel Fowler:
Juliana Smithton, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “The Other Place”
M’Lynn, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Lucille, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”

Sarah Grover:
Dorothy, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”
Anne Frank, Platte Valley Players’ The Diary of Anne Frank”
Alison, Starkey Theatrix’s “Bingo the Musical”
Winifred, Performance Now’s “Once Upon a Mattress”
Iris, Arvada Center’s “No Dogs Allowed”

Devon James:
Garland, Denver Children’s Theatre’s “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”
Lisa, Miners Alley Playhouse’s “Collected Stories”
Emily, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”
Kate, Boulder Ensemble’s “Seminar”
Annelle, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Julie, Curious Theatre’s “Rancho Mirage”

Haley Johnson:
Maggie, Edge Theatre’s “Shadow Box”
Cass Harris, Miners Alley Playhouse’s “Wonder of the World”
Anna, Vintage Theatre’s “Closer”
Sally Applewhite, Miners Alley Playhouse’s “It’s a Wonderful Life, the Radio Play”

Emma Messenger:
Bella, Vintage Theatre’s “What’s Wrong with This Picture?”
Tom/Phyllis/Leslie, Firehouse/Spotlight’s “Sylvia”
Noleta, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”
Big Mama, The Edge’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
Julia, Firehouse’s “The Christmas Spirit”

Missy Moore:
Essie, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ “You Can’t Take it With You”
Lilly, Denver Children’s Theatre’s “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”
Bananas, The Edge’s “The House of Blue Leaves”
Gina/Woman Scorned, Aspen Stage’s Unmarried in America”

Anne Oberbroeckling:
Sister Aloysius, Cherry Creek Theatre’s Doubt”
Stella, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”
Vera Joseph, Curious Theatre’s “After the Revolution”

Jamie Ann Romero:
Alice, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ “You Can’t Take it With You”
Kitty, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers”
Miss Audrey, Lone Tree Arts Center’s “Hank Williams: Lost Highway”
Titania, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Witch, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Macbeth”
Queen Isabel, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Richard II”

Megan Van De Hey:
Patsy Cline, Starkey Theatrix’s “Always, Patsy Cline”
Arlene, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Baby”
Carmen, Arvada Center’s “Curtains”
Morgan Le Fey, Arvada Center’s “Camelot”
The Ghost of Christmas Past, Arvada Center’s “A Christmas Carol”

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA:
Patrick Call, Rico, Dangerous Theatre’s “Dark Wood”
Laurence Curry, Oshoosi Size, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Steve Emily, Denny, Springs Ensemble Theatre’s “A Steady Rain”
Cajardo Lindsey, Ogun Size, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Lorenzo Sarinana, Yank, LIDA Project’s “The Hairy Ape”

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA:
Adrienne Martin-Fullwood, Martha, Athena Project’s “Tell Martha Not to Moan”
Laura Norman, Myra Babbage, Boulder Ensemble’s “Ghost-Writer”
Anne Oberbroekling, Sister Aloysious, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Doubt”
Erica Sarzin-Borrillo, Mary Tyrone, Germinal Stage-Denver’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Maggy Stacy, Maggie, The Edge’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA:
Brian Colonna, Caliban, Buntport’s “Wake”
Damion Hoover, Elegba, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Nathan Stith, MacDuff, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Macbeth”
Andrew Uhlenhopp, Michael, 11 Minutes Theatre’s “Dancing at Lughnasa”
Joe Von Bokern, Billy Bibbitt, Edge Theatre’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA:
Adrian Egolf, Shelby, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Rachel Fowler, M’Lynn, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Rachel D. Graham, Sister James, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Doubt”
C. Kelly Leo, Ellen/Jenna, Curious Theatre’s “Maple & Vine”
Emma Messenger, Big Mama, The Edge’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL:
David Ambroson, Valjean, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Casey Andree, Claude, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
John Arp, Tevye, University of Denver’s “Fiddler on the Roof”
Mark Dissette, Tevye, Phamaly’s “Fiddler on the Roof”
Charlie Schmidt, Princeton/Rod, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”

ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL:
Jennifer De Dominici, Aldonza, Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”
Lisa Finnerty, Judy, Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 To 5,” The Musical”
Norrell Moore, Sheila, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
SuCh, Celie, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Alisha Winter, Maria, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s “The Sound of Music”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL:
Colin Alexander, Christopher Belling, Arvada Center’s “Curtains”
William Thomas Evans, Merlyn, King Pellinore, Arvada Center’s “Camelot”
Nigel Huckle, Marius, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Mark Shonsey, Igor, Vintage Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein”
Cory Wendling, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL:
Jona Alonzo, Roz, Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5, The Musical”
Ashlie Amber Harris, Shug Avery, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Anna High, Sofia, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Shannan Steele, Pam, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Baby”
Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Madame Thenardier, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMIC ROLE:
Tom Auclair, Artie, The Edge’s “The House of Blue Leaves”
Sam Gregory, Johann Friedrich Fasch, Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”
Larry Hecht, Puck, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Steef Sealy, Richard, Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer”
Matthew Stalker, Hugh “Bullshot” Crummond, OpenStage’s “Bullshot Crummond”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMIC ROLE:
Jenna Bainbridge, Hermia, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Leslie O’Carroll, Madame Arcati, Arvada Center’s “Blithe Spirit”
Erin Rollman, Electra, Buntport’s “Electra Onion Eater”
Jane Shirley, various roles, The Avenue’s “Motherhood Out Loud”
Sharon Kay White, Mary Jo, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMIC ROLE:
Will Ferrie, seven roles, OpenStage’s “Bullshot Crummond”
Nigel Gore, Bottom, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Kevin Leonard, Brother Boy, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”
Eric Mather, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”
Sean Scrutchins, Lysander, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMIC ROLE:
Rhonda Brown, Truvy, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Hannah Duggan, Clytemnestra, Buntport’s “Electra Onion Eater”
Emma Messenger, Noleta, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”
Lindsey Pierce, Lois Coleman, Miners Alley Playhouse “Wonder of the World”
Jamie Ann Romero, Titania, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE:
James O’Hagan-Murphy, Robert Kennedy, Vintage Theatre’s “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”
Michelle Hurtubise, Woman, Theatre Esprit Asia’s “Spirit and Sworded Treks”
Wendy Ishii, Joan Didion, Bas Bleu’s “The Year of Magical Thinking”

BEST YOUNGER ACTOR:
Eli Brandt, Gavroche, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Peter Cabrera, Rudy, Longmont Theatre Company’s “Over the Tavern”
Devon Erickson, Doody, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Grease”
August Slaughter, Rudy, Bas Bleu Theatre’s “Over the Tavern”
Ella Tieze, Irene Ratliff, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A PLAY:
Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Bach at Leipzig”
Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Aurora Fox’s “Metamorphoses”
Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer”
Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A MUSICAL:
Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”
Magic Moments’ “Spirit & Soul”
Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”

BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY:
Bernie Cardell, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”
Dee Covington, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Josh Hartwell, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Ghost-Writer”
Geoffrey Kent, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Amanda Berg Wilson, The Catamounts’ “Failure: A Love Story”

BEST DIRECTORS OF A MUSICAL:
Christopher Willard and Donna Debreceni, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
donnie l. betts and David Wohl, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Nick Sugar and Donna Debreceni, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Kurt Terrio and Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Rod Lansberry and David Nehls, Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY:
Alicia Dunfee, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”
Janice Guy-Sayles, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Danny Harrigan, Ignite Theatre’s “Cabaret”
Matt LaFontaine, Vintage Theatre’s “In the Heights”
Nick Sugar, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”

BEST SCENIC DESIGN:
Buntport ensemble, “Wake”
Steven J. Deidel, LIDA Project’s “RUR/lol”
Brian Mallgrave, Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”
Shannon McKinney and Chip Walton, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Adam Stone, Screw Tooth’s “Some Kind of Fun”

BEST SOUND DESIGN:
Wayne Kennedy, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”
Dustin Lacy, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R/lol”
Andrew Metzroth, Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”
John Rivera, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”
Adam Stone, Buntport Theater’s “Wake”

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN:
Seth Alison, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”
Kerry Cripe, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Ghost-Writer”
Benjamin Danielowski, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Steven J. Deidel, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R./lol”
Shannon McKinney, Aurora Fox’s “Metamorphoses”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Kiana Coney, Su Teatro/The Source’s “The Gospel at Colonus”
Cinde Franke, Performance Now’s “Once Upon a Mattress”
Clare Henkel, Arvada Center’s “Curtains”
Linda Morken, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Linda Morken, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”

BEST MULTIMEDIA INTEGRATION:
El Armstrong, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Steven J. Deidel, Kenrick Fischer, Kevin Zegan, Max Peterson and Brian Freeland, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R./lol”
Deb Flomberg, Equinox’s “Carrie: The Musical”
Brian Freeland, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Brian Freeland, LIDA Project’s “The Hairy Ape”

And remember: Click here to take the readers’ choice survey.

Photos: My night at Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s ‘Seminar’

To see caption information on any photo above, or to see the gallery on a mobile phone, click here. (It will be on the lower-left corner.) Or just click “show info” on any photo.

By John Moore
Oct. 4, 2013

Opening No. 120: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Seminar”: In Theresa Rebeck’s new exploration of academic privilege and 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 (John Ashton). Under his reckless instruction, the wordplay is not the only thing that turns vicious. Also 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.

To see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series to date (these are outtakes), click here: www.culturewest.org/?p=6068. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.

IMG_3235
Director Stephen Weitz gets his tie caught in a furry, salivating work of art at the Dairy Center.

More “Seminar” coverage:
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. The company drew a standing ovation.

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The Denver Actors Fund (my new non-profit that provides immediate assistance to members of teh Colorado theatre community who find themselves in immediate, situational medical need) is hosting a Happy Hour starting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Cap City, 1247 Bannock St, Denver, 80204. Please join us for a drink — and learn about volunteer opportunities should you be so inclined.

If you cannot attend, you can still help get us off the ground with your donation. Just send your tax-deductible check (with our humble thanks) to:

Denver Actors Fund
4594 Osceola St.
Denver, CO 80212

Moore on Moore: You can’t say ‘director’ without ‘dire’

How our overture looked and sounded to the audience (above)

 

ame
The photo above shows how we staged the climactic song, “True Love,” just after Patsy Cline’s death. You can see how Megan Van De Hey (Patsy) was silhouetted in Louise’s window, singing (live) while a grainy video recording of her singing the same song played on our band wall. Photo by Ame Vessa. Video by Sammy Taggett. Set by Shaun Albrechtson. Lighting by Richard Spomer. Sound by Ross Ewing.

By John Moore
May 7, 2013

Every day for more than six weeks, I asked some of the most prolific and respected names in Colorado tailored questions about the craft of directing for the live theater. The result was my series, “Anatomy of a Theater Director.” I did it because I was about to make my return to directing (“Always … Patsy Cline”), and I wanted to shamelessly crib off all the wonderful advice I knew I would get.

John Ashton (Day 22!) was among several readers who suggested how I might end the series: With John Moore, the journalist, interviewing John Moore, the director. Knowing both of these Moores, I had a feeling it might get a little testy. It did, but ultimately, they powered through. They talked … and talked … and talked. The tongue-in-cheek transcript of their heated and sometimes hopefully illuminating exchange follows.

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Director No. 40: John Moore. The survey:

IMG_0932 Most recent directing project: “Always, Patsy Cline” at the PACE Center.

Upcoming directing project: Hah. Not likely.

Your question: Now that you have walked a mile — or let’s be more honest — Now that you’ve walked a few feet in a director’s shoes, what do you think now of the massive amount of planning, vision, research, inspiration and juggling that goes into this incredibly difficult job?

Turns out directing is a lot easier than I thought.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Experience. Definitely experience.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: “All the best art is borderline porn.” … Oh wait, that’s not it. How about: “No ordinary moments”?

Journalist John Moore’s Q & A with director John Moore:

Journo JoMo: Well, this is awkward.
Director MoJo: You aren’t kidding. Your reputation precedes you.
Journo: That’s not what I was talking about.
Director: Well …?
Journo: Well …?
Director: Well … what were you talking about?
Journo: Frankly, I have no idea why you are being included in this directors series.
Director: What? I just directed a show that got nightly standing ovations, extended performances and rave reviews!
Journo: “Raving” reviews are a little different that “rave” reviews, Mr. Moore, and, believe me … we’ll get back to that.
Director: Do I need to have my lawyer present?
Journo: Not if you tell the truth.
Director: This is feeling like a scene from “Law & Order.”
Journo: I promised my readers I would be interviewing “the most prolific and respected directors in town.” You just directed your first show since Taft was president.
Director: If I didn’t know better, I might take that as an insult.

Journo: Let’s just get this charade over with, shall we? So did you learn anything about directing from this experience?
Director: Could you ask that question with any more condescension?
Journo: I bet, if I tried, I could muster it.
Director: Yes … I learned that you can’t say “director” without “dire.” …

(Pause.)

Director: C’mon. That was funny!

(Pause.)

Journo: See, people told me you would do that.
Director: Do what?
Journo: That “clever wordplay” you learned at the foot of Woody Paige. You use puns and alliteration and other word tricks whenever you don’t have anything tangibly relevant or illuminating to say. You’ve been doing that since your first day as theater critic. I can’t believe no one has ever called you on it.
Director: Are we talking about you or me right now?
Journo: Oh, what’s the difference?
Director: I’ll tell you the difference: I am now seen in the theater community as a director with an almost childlike enthusiasm and love for the process. You’re just … kind of an old crank.
Journo: Was there an answer to my question somewhere in there?
Director: Isn’t it just possible that I — you, we … whatever — use wordplay to reveal big, complex truths in accessible, understandable ways?
Journo: Did you talk like that during rehearsals?
Director: Like what?
Journo: With a British accent?
Director: Oh, no. That started on opening night, when the cast presented me with a beret and a riding crop.
Journo: God, you are an idiot.
Director: Let’s leave the judging to the critics, shall we?
Journo: I’ll remember that the next time I see a Brit wearing a beret.
Director: And I will thank you for that!

Journo: So if you recall, I asked each of the 39 “real” directors in this series to tell me, in one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have?
Director: Yes. There were an illuminating array of responses.
Journo: Let’s start by having you use all of the words they gave … in one sentence.
Director: Oh, (bleep) you.
Journo: Shall I talk slower for you? The two most often cited words in that survey were vision and humility, followed by empathy, passion, flexibility, respect, collaboration, commitment, compassion and curiosity. So what does that tell you?
Director: That … that’s an awful lot of c’s?
Journo: That’s really the best you can do?
Director: I dunno … that sounds more like the job description for a nurse than a theater director. Or maybe a daytime TV talk-show host.
Journo: Did you even read my directors series?
Director: I checked in on it from time to time. Whenever I don’t see my name in a story, I tend to lose interest quickly.
Journo: My God, you ARE a director!
Director: I’ve been telling you!

Journo: Let’s get this over with. How did you get this gig in the first place?
Director: I have known the producer, Ronni Gallup, since she was a teenager. I assisted on a production of “Story Theatre” she was performing in at the Denver Civic Theatre. That show christened the Dorie studio theater there in the early 1990s — we even installed the seats. My job was character development and visual puns. So when lines like, “X marks the spot” came up in rehearsal, I would tell the kids, “We should produce an X right here!”
Journo: You and your “clever” wordplay again.
Director: Well, Ronni liked it. Anyway, as you know, I’ve long since left The Denver Post, and in December, Ronni asked me if I wanted to direct “Always … Patsy Cline” for her company, Starkey Theatrix, at the PACE Center in Parker.

Journo: With all due respect … why did she pick you?
Director: When you ask that, Mr. Moore, the antipathy drips off your lips like drool. The truth is, Ronni believed — as do I — that even though this script calls for no real interaction between Patsy and Louise onstage, there is, nevertheless, a deeper relationship to explore. And if we could somehow stage it in a way that really focuses on their sisterhood, we would produce a more poignant and meaningful play — and I use that word meaningfully. This is a musical, but we already had one of the best musical directors in Jalyn Courtenay Webb in the fold. What Ronni needed me for was to direct the play. One that would entertain people, and then really kick them in the gut when Louise loses her friend in the plane crash.

Journo: Were there any conditions?
Director: Yes. Ronni specifically wanted to produce the show with Carla Kaiser Kotrc playing Louise, the Houston housewife who narrates the story. The rest of the production team was for the most part already lined up, too, and Ronni even offered to pre-cast Patsy for me with an experienced, known actress, if I wanted. She was making everything so easy for me. But I wasn’t at all sure “Always … Patsy Cline” was the best way for me to introduce myself to the local theater community as a director. You only get one chance for a first impression, and I wasn’t sure I wanted people thinking this was the kind of show I was jonesing to direct. But Ronni told me to think of the job as like a gateway drug: It’s a simple, two-person show; experienced actors; short rehearsal period; limited run. As directing goes, it won’t get any easier than this. So it felt like a good way to dip my toes back in; an opportunity to learn and re-learn the trade. Then, if I don’t screw things up, maybe some other opportunities might come of it.

Journo: So did both roles end up being pre-cast?
Director: No. I was happy to be given 51 cards in a 52-card deck, as I like to say. But I did not want the whole thing handed to me on a plate. I had no interest in being a figurehead director. I was happy with Carla playing Louise because I had seen her perform the role in an excellent 2009 production in Greeley. For me, that was her audition. What was great was when Ronni agreed to let me open up the auditions for the role of Patsy, and to both non-union and union actors. That’s what allowed Megan Van De Hey, who eventually won the role, to even be a part of the conversation.

Journo: What were those auditions like?
Director: Excruciating. Honestly, I felt exactly the same as I did on those mornings when I would publish a theater review in The Denver Post that I knew was not going to say what the production team was hoping it was going to say. It feels awful. No matter how respectful you are, someone is going to get hurt. So here we are auditioning all of these wonderful potential Patsys — many of whom have played the role triumphantly before. Cutting them to five, then to three, and then to one, made me realize that directors have to be even bigger hard-asses than critics. It’s all kind of cutthroat.

Journo: What were your considerations in casting Patsy?
Director: I told Ronni when she hired me that she was inheriting the baggage of everything I had written for 12 years as a theater critic. And that included my regular rants about age-inappropriate casting. My mantra was this: Patsy Cline was 30 years old when she died, and I wanted the audience to grieve for a 30-year-old mother when she died.

Journo: Were there any surprises at the audition?
Director: Several. One was being told by more than one actor that I caught them by surprise by having them read a scene for a musical role that has little, if any, spoken dialogue. I was told that almost never happens in an audition for a musical. But the evident chemistry between Carla and whoever would be playing Patsy was as important to me as Patsy’s contralto voice was to my music director. So I had the five finalists read from Ellen Bryon’s “Graceland” — that’s the story of two middle-aged Elvis fans who camp out three days before his estate is first opened to the public. The irony is these characters are essentially two Louises, and I was trying to find my Patsy. But that reading told me everything I needed to know about who I wanted to play Patsy.

Journo: What were the pros and cons of hiring two actors who had both played their respective roles before?
Director: Mostly pros. It took very little time for them both to get back into the skin of their characters. It was a tremendous help to Carla because she wasn’t starting from scratch on memorizing 40 pages of dialogue. The only con was trying not to being beholden to what worked before. I know what Carla did in Greeley worked — I saw it. But I was directing a different play, on a vastly different kind of stage. It took a leap of faith for her to go on this ride with me, and I know it wasn’t always easy for her to trust where I was going with it. With Patsy, I admit to initially wondering just how interested Megan would be in really working anew on these 27 songs. She’s played the role to standing ovations three times before. What are we going to tell her that she doesn’t already know? But bless my musical director’s heart: Vocally, She worked Megan in a way I suspect she hasn’t been worked before. And thank God Megan was open to it. I know nothing about music theory, and didn’t pretend to, so I mostly left those two to their own devices. When it came to transferring their work to the stage, Jalyn and I had basically the same recurring message for Megan: That each song has a story to tell in it, and I wanted to see that story play out on her face just as plainly as I should hear it in her voice.

 

(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of our interview between John Moore and John Moore)

Anatomy of a theater director: A daily Q&A with Colorado’s creative minds

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By John Moore
May 3, 2013

My return to directing (“Always … Patsy Cline,” which closed April 27 at the PACE Center), had me revisiting a story idea I always wanted to do for The Denver Post, but never got around to: The anatomy of the theater director. So I am doing it now, while shamelessly cribbing off all the wonderful advice I am getting.

I asked some of the most prolific and respected directors in town one individual, tailored question about the craft, process and problem-solving of directing for the live theater. And two quick follow-ups for the entire panel.

Each day, I added a new director to this report. I didn’t get everyone I wanted but am so grateful for those that I did. I hope you enjoy this insight into one of the most important but seldom-discussed aspects of the creative process.

There is now a new addendum to this series to share with you. Think of Day 40 as a post-mortem on our “Anatomy of a Theater Director” series. It features a testy journalist named John Moore interviewing a churlish theater director named John Moore.

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Director No. 39: Kent Thompson.

KentThompson Most recent directing project: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Other Desert Cities”

Upcoming directing project: World premiere of “Just Like Us,” opening Oct. 10 at the Denver Center Theatre Company.

Your question: What are one or two valuable lessons you have learned about directing over the course of your career that you wish you could go back and whisper into the ear of the young Kent Thompson who was directing his first few shows out of the gate?

I would tell young Kent: ‘Every actor works a different way. As does every designer, playwright, etc. Articulacy and persuasion are just as important as directing’ — which a lot of people underestimate in thinking that it’s telling actors what to do. The hardest part of directing most shows is ‘bringing the ship into port.’ Forcing yourself to zoom back from the intimate, imaginative and deeply personal process of rehearsal (and all your brilliant ideas!) so you can see the show anew during dress and previews. Then finding the courage to change things that are not working — even if it unsettles everyone and is risky.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Vision. Curiosity.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Know why you must direct this particular play now; inspire everyone else with your vision; describe how we will get there; then persuade everyone to collaborate, contribute, and improve the vision.
Director No. 38: Chip Walton.

chipwaltonportrait Most recent directing project: “God of Carnage,” running through June 8 at Curious Theatre (303-623-0524).

Your question: Say you just don’t like the way an actor is delivering a key line. Does a good director tell the actor exactly how you want the line delivered, so he/she knows exactly what you mean … or should the director give him/her something to think about in the hope that they will arrive at your way of thinking over time?

A good director never gives a line-reading, but always tries to help the actor get to where they think they need to be, including line delivery. I’m a big believer in technique -— so I tend to give a lot of notes about inflection, emphasis, playing through the end of lines, etc. — because I think the delivery of a line can be instrumental in how an audience receives it. This requires actors with a certain amount of training and technique, but with those tools in place, these questions of “line readings” become much easier to address. For example, I am currently working on ‘God of Carnage,’ and the last few lines of the play are very tricky, both in terms of tone and message. As we have worked on it, we have talked very little about ’emotion,’ and a lot about words like ‘feeble,’ or ‘slower,’ or ‘feathered.’ Given that we have such a strong company of actors who share a very common vocabulary, this is very common to how we work here at Curious.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Vision.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: My directing philosophy is to arrive at the rehearsal room with a strong vision, leave plenty of room for good collaborative ideas from others, and never be afraid to embrace questions, rather than always feeling like you need answers.

 

 

Director No. 37: Geoff Kent.

geoff Most recent directing project: “You Can’t Take it With You,” for TheatreWorks in Colorado Springs

Upcoming projects: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” opening June 7 at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
 in Boulder, and “Metamorphoses,” opening Aug. 16 at the Aurora Fox

Your question: “According to the Institute of Outdoor Drama, overall paid attendance at outdoor Shakespeare festivals is down more than 60 percent since 1994. So how should a director approach directing a Shakespeare play in 2013 in a way that will be true to the text, but also capture the imaginations of an audience that is drifting away?”

Tough question. We’ve been running the bard across the theater boards for more than 450 years. I think we have all heard the adage that his stories are timeless and resonate today. And I wholeheartedly agree. But cracking him open to today’s audiences is still a mean feat. I suppose on one hand, we can liven it up with technology: Ariel as a hologram projected on mist; epic scenic transformations, the ‘Macbeth’ witches chanting via Tweets. Hell, even the Royal Shakespeare Company is currently collaborating with Google for an online, interactive ‘Midsummer’ experience.

Framing the play in a setting that illuminates the themes to a modern audience helps to erase the feeling that it is outdated and stuffy. I once staged ‘Macbeth’ in the Wild West. You might set ‘The Tempest’ on the moon, or ‘The Comedy of Errors’ … with pirates! This summer, we are certainly aiming for a ‘ “Downton Abbey” meets “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” ‘ atmosphere. And next fall, I will be acting in a ‘Taming of the Shrew’ that is being billed as ‘ “Showboat” meets “Maverick” meets “Gone with the Wind.” ‘ Gimmicks, maybe. … But sexy gimmicks.

However, when the rubber hits the road with Shakespeare, it is still all about the language. And if a director and the cast can crack it open, and speak the speech clearly so that you don’t need footnotes or a cheat-sheet to follow it, the plays stand on their own merit. They still make an audience bust a gut … or weep openly.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Passion.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: To create an atmosphere in the rehearsal room where any idea can be fearlessly pursued.

 

 

Director No. 36: Robert Kramer.

kramer Most recent directing project: “Race,” the inaugural show at the new space for the Edge Theater

Upcoming projects: “Collected Stories,” with Billie McBride and Devon James; “Wonder of the World” and “It’s A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play,” all at Miners Alley Playhouse

Your question: Once rehearsals begin, what are the time-sucking traps that directors should be on the lookout for that can distract you from using your valuable time in the best possible way?

Time management is vitally important; not just because there is a limited amount of it in the rehearsal process, but also so your actors feel valued. The most popular thing a director with a big cast can do is make an incredibly specific schedule that calls actors only at the times they are needed, and then STICK TO IT! I also never run cue-to-cues with actors and always separate out the time spent with designers so that they can have my full attention and feel valued as well. In the actual process, the most dangerous derailing element is also a valuable one — conversations with actors. If you dismiss these during rehearsal, it can alienate an actor. and cause them to both share and collaborate less. But the flip-side is just as costly. So I tend to allow for a certain amount and then budget time after every rehearsal for extended talking time with actors. Then the impetus to triage these concerns falls on the actor — if it is truly important, they will stay and chat. If not, it typically was a minor or momentary issue they can work out on their own.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Vision.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: My job as a director is to show everyone at their best: The actor, the playwright, everyone.

 

 

Director No. 35: Warren Sherrill.

WARREN Most recent project: Acted in “The Seafarer” for Ashton Entertainment at the Aurora Fox.

Upcoming project: The Paragon Theatre co-founder will direct “Dust Storm” for Theatre Esprit Asia, opening May 30 at the Vintage Theatre in Aurora (303-856-7830).

Your question: Directing has moved past the rehearsal room and into your actors’ e-mail boxes. Now that technology has made communicating with your cast and crew so much easier, some directors use every second in the rehearsal room for work, and then later send out long, specific overnight notes via e-mail. I’m not so sure this is the best way to be communicating the finer points of your production. There’s no dialogue, just a directive to “change this,” or “try something else.” It seems much could be misinterpreted in the absence of tone or direct response. Do you ascribe to “notes by e-mail,” or do you prefer direct dialogue, even if that cuts into your rehearsal time?

There’s no doubt about it: E-mail has certainly changed the way we do theater. I think those of us who have day jobs can relate to the fact that e-mail has taken over a large part of everyday communication. Time-saving? Definitely. Effective? Meh.

The way I like to use e-mail when directing a show is for communication that really isn’t dialogue driven … most of this happens with the tech crew, not with the actors. Communications that can happen without having to call a special production meeting but need to be addressed, such as lists, basic “how to’s” or instructions, answers, or even questions that require a simple answer. This is where e-mail helps in the birth of a production — and I always make sure to include the WHOLE team in every email, as this ultimately saves a lot of back-tracking during crucial production meetings.

With actors, I do my absolute best not to e-mail directing notes. There will always be the little e-mail here and there, such as, “Don’t forget to take that suitcase off after scene 2” — things that can be addressed simply and quickly. To me, face-to-face communication AND DIALOGUE with your actors is the key to a good production … especially during the last few rehearsals. There is no time for misinterpretations. I want opinions, I want feedback and ideas … and from everyone involved in the show. It makes it much more of a team effort and creates the mutual sense of “ownership” that is so crucial in the end.

As for time concerns? My theory always has been that you should give yourself enough time to end on time. If rehearsal is scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m … then finish at 10 p.m. … with notes. It can be done. No excuses.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Honesty.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: My attitude is that director should eventually become an invisible character on the stage. … Only the actors and crew can see him, and that character can make or break the show.

 

Editor’s note: The following entries offer two perspectives on the same (volatile) topic.

Director No. 34: Scott RC Levy.

Scott Most recent directing project: “Other Desert Cities” for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Upcoming project: Making my Colorado acting debut as “Man in Chair” in “The Drowsy Chaperone” here at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, ooening May 9.

Your question: Acting is an inherently vulnerable endeavor. What do you do if, in the normal course of rehearsing, your actor has some kind of a breakdown. Your show hangs in the balance. How do you salvage things, and quickly?

If my work as a director brings out an “emotional breakdown” from an actor, then the actor has more serious problems that need to be dealt with, and I probably shouldn’t have hired them in the first place. I would probably tell them to suck it up — and immediately try to find a replacement. We don’t have time to deal with that nonsense, nor is it my job to serve as the actor’s babysitter.

But yes, sometimes the work is emotionally raw and honest — and sometimes what appears to be a meltdown is actually a breakthrough of some sort. If there were a situation in which an individual actor were exhibiting signs that made the piece need to be salvaged, I would simply have a private conversation with the actor to get to the root of the issue, give them some time to regroup, and then move on. Especially in a drama, what I try to remind actors is that if and when they are successful at having an emotional release, when we rehearse or perform the scene next, they can not go back and look for that same emotion, because chances are they won’t be able to access it again, as it won’t be of the moment and on the breath.

For actors, use your emotion. If you speak the words on the emotion and breathe on the emotion (instead of trying to exhale breath and throw away the emotion before speaking), then your emotion will transform into something else. It’s basic human nature. We don’t stay in one emotion for very long.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Chutzpah.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Honor the collaboration; create a fun and trust-filled room (rehearsal and performance); tell the story that has been written with thought and feeling; and never forget the audience.

 

 

Director No. 33: Jennifer McCray Rincon.

rincon Most recent directing projects: I am working on building up Visionbox, an actors’ studio and production Company in the Santa Fe Drive the arts district. Projects in development are: The American Chekhov Project; an adaptation of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”; and Crisis Actors, a new company developing training videos and live re-enactments of emergencies in schools in Colorado.

Your question: Acting is an inherently vulnerable endeavor. What do you do if, in the normal course of rehearsing, your actor has some kind of a breakdown. Your show hangs in the balance. How do you salvage things, and quickly?

So if an actor has a meltdown, I suppose I would try to remind them that personalization is about the life of the character, and that their ability to walk in someone else’s shoes is the real truth in acting. Not what is going on in their own experience. And that by putting attention on the other character on stage, their work will be more intuitively true and free. Self is paradoxically our worst enemy onstage. All attention goes on to the others, other character’s on stage. It is not about you.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Humility.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: The director is responsible first and foremost for the spine of the play. This is Harold Clurman: the spine is the human need that propels the play. Everything comes from that. The other characters’ journey or spine or superobjectives must connect to the spine of the play. This is the directors’ responsibility to define and organize. Also as Elia Kazan has said, the director translates the psychology of the play into behavior on stage. Nikos Psacharopoulos, my first teacher who convinced me to direct instead of act, always focused on the behavior of the play.

 

 

Director No. 32: Nick Sugar.

sugar2 Most recent directing projects: “Forever Plaid” for the Town Hall Arts Center, and “Noises Off” for Starkey Theatrix at the Lone Tree Arts Center

Upcoming projects: “Hair,” opening May 17 at the Town Hall Arts Center; “Minimum Wage,” opening June 21 at the Avenue Theater.

Your questions: As a director, what are some of the most common, deal-breaker mistakes you often observe actors make at an audition? As an actor, what is the most annoying thing you have observed a director do at an audition?

First question, common actor mistakes:

Perception is key. An actor needs to learn how they are perceived at an audition, as well as onstage. Several times a very talented actor will audition with the wrong material. Perhaps a song choice that is not appropriate for the style of show they are auditioning for, or auditioning for a character they would not be right for. As a director, it makes me question how they perceive themselves, and if we see don’t see eye-to-eye on a character, it could make the process of creating that character a challenge for both of us. An actor really captures my attention when I know they have researched the show, the character and the music style that I am looking for, ALL in 24 to 36 bars of music! Also, if an actor is truly not willing to accept any role in the production, they should not say they are willing. Honesty is always appreciated. An actor-and-director relationship begins at the audition process. Honesty saves a lot of time in the casting process, and it is something I remember from one audition to the next.”

Second question, common director mistakes:

The audition process is very challenging for all! I try not to focus on the director’s energy at an audition. You can’t know what is going on in his or her head. I practice the same thing I tell my students: It’s your time to do what you love. If you truly love it, and have spent a lot of time and money studying this craft, then just come into an audition as if you are walking on stage for a performance: Prepared, confident and professional. It’s your three minutes … Own it!”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Trust. I need to trust the people I cast. I need them to trust my vision.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Tell the story!

 

Director No. 31: Brian Freeland.

freeland Most recent directing project: The LIDA Project’s “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.”

Upcoming directing project: “The Hairy Ape,” opening May 10 at the LIDA Project work | space,
2701 Lawrence St., 720-221-3821 or LIDA’s home page.

Your question: What are the most important attributes in a director who is creating a devised, original piece of theater along with an ensemble over a longer period of time than normal?

Being a director of devised work is more akin to drawing the short straw on a taser test. You are placed in the almost impossible task of pushing an ensemble to create theatrical work in new and often incredibly risky ways, while always providing a stable, grounded, environment to create. In the void of a formal theater structure, the role of director in devised work is equal parts playwright, dramaturge, audience, producer and critic. There is no “answer” to devised work, no previous performance, no “right way.” Being able to remove the fear is the most important attribute.

Working with an ensemble on devised work over a sustained period of time only can make the language of the work stronger. From a director’s eye, the ensemble only shows its strengths, proclivities, bad habits, etc., over time. It is only from creating a long and sustained body of work that an ensemble can truly work together and a director of such work can get at the true core.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Devotion.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Artists can never expect growth from an audience if they have not made a dedication to their own growth.

 

Director No. 30: Anthony Powell.

Anthony Powell 0910 B&W Most recent directing project: For the last few years, I’ve been operating in full-tilt “Jack-of-all-Trades” mode with Stories on Stage, which is a joy.

Upcoming project: In August, I’ll begin directing “Death of a Salesman” for the Denver Center Theatre Company. The offer came not too long ago like a bolt out of the blue, and needless to say, I am one unbelievably grateful puppy.

Your question: It’s tech week: The hours are long. The work is tedious. You’re being asked to make major decisions every 10 seconds. Everyone wants a piece of you. You seem to be doing everything except what you really want to be doing, which is working with the actors on the play. From mindset to what food you pack … What is your tech week survival strategy?

I’ve always been a bit of a weirdo among my peers because I actually love techs. They’re a hoot. You get a whole slew of cool new toys to play with (like sets and lights and sound); members of the artistic team who haven’t been in the rehearsal hall on a daily basis are suddenly running around all the time, infusing the show with their vision and energy and excitement; and — best of all — as director, you get to take a little vacation from the play and the actors and concentrate on other things for a while. Even more importantly, the actors get to take a little vacation from YOU. Techs can be goofy fun and a refreshing time for everybody.

Which is not to say that I don’t experience those idiotic tech moments when one starts thinking like Captain Queeg, obsessing about strawberries and duplicate keys, and wondering why everyone is trying to “RUIN MY PLAY?!?” That kind of ego-driven nuttiness is a function of not getting enough rest, and my only solution for it is to take some deep breaths and remember that this isn’t my play, it’s the team’s play, and that now might be a good time to concentrate on helping other people instead of worrying about oneself.

Besides, rolling those silver ball-bearings around in my hand all the time has a way of freaking people out.

Whenever I start heading down to Crazytown during techs, I try (… TRY!) to recall something my mentor Donovan Marley was always fond of saying: “The best idea in the room is the best idea in the room is the best idea in the room, whether it happens to be your idea — or someone else’s.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Openness.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Whenever possible, say, “Yes, let’s try that,” to members of your team — instead of, “No, that won’t work,” because when you can hazard saying “yes” on a fairly regular basis, the good ideas begin to flow, and the less effective ones commence falling out of orbit under their own weight.

 

Director No. 29: A. Lee Massaro.

ALM Most recent directing project: “On an Average Day,” at Curious Theatre

Upcoming directing project: “Dividing the Estate,” opening Tuesday at the Arvada Center

Your question: What’s one practice or method or exercise or advice or anecdote you ever personally observed from a director you learned from, and it affected you so greatly, you incorporated it into the way you have directed ever since?

I assisted the wonderful director James Nicola when I first came to town 20 years ago. (Is that possible?) I remember an actor getting emotional and dropping his head. James asked the actor to look up instead so that the audience could see “the symphony in his eyes.” I find actors have a tendency to focus downward and go “internal” when we most need to experience that symphony, so I often quote this advice. It’s a simple thing, but it often makes the difference between the audience merely watching the action — and being moved by it.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Humility.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: I like to collaborate with great people, and strike a balance between rigor and play in the pursuit of truthful moments.

 

 

(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of our series, “Anatomy of a Theater Director”)

Photos: My night at the Aurora Fox’s ‘Consider the Oyster’

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A view of the opening-night party from behind the “Consider the Oyster” set, shot through the cut-out window of a Detroit skyscraper. Very cool set design by Shaun Albrechtson.

By John Moore
Feb. 19, 2013

Opening No. 30: “Consider the Oyster” is a gender-bending comic fantasy developed by Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theatre Company in Michigan. Playwright David MacGregor’s tale trades on two little-known facts: That all oysters are born male and turn female. And that cutting-edge doctors now use oyster shells to speed the repair of broken human bones. In the story, the perennially hapless Detroit Lions actually win a Super Bowl title. (Go with us here.) In the euphoria of the celebration, super-fan Gene Walsh (Ben Dicke) impulsively proposes marriage to his girlfriend (Rachel Turner), immediately breaks his leg, and, well … they can take it from here. Ironically, director Bev Newcomb-Madden had her own foot surgery just four days after opening night. “Let’s hope they didn’t use oyster shell!” said producer Charles Packard. Also featuring Jude Moran, Rhonda Brown and Ali Frances. Through March 10 at 9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or the Aurora Fox’s home page. Photo by John Moore of www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks to Charles Packard, Lindsey Sullivan, Patricia Wells, cast and crew.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 31 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

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

 

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Randy, rowdy Rhonda Brown plays a considerably more uptight character on stage – a sharkish attorney who is out to score millions of dollars.

 

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Rachel Turner plays the confounded finace Marissa, whose intended is no longer the man she thought he was.

 

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Ben Dicke, left, and Jude Moran play roommates Gene and Eliot.

 

OPENING 30
Director Bev Newcomb-Madden is the most prolific female director in Colorado theater history, with nearly 300 productions to her name, dating back to the old Bonfils Theatre in the 1960s. Here, in a backstage dressing room at the Aurora Fox, she greets the women who appear in her latest effort, from left: Rhonda Brown, Rachel Turner and Ali Frances.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page.)

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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“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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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 with ‘The Seafarer’ at the Aurora Fox

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Booze: Beer, whiskey, poteen, you name it — is everywhere to be found on the set of “The Seafarer.”
 

By John Moore
Feb. 12, 2013

Here are bonus images from my brief visit backstage at Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer” on Feb. 8 at the Aurora Fox. It was a long road bringing Conor McPherson’s drama about four Irish drinking buddies gathering to play poker on Christmas Eve to the stage. John Ashton, originally cast in Paragon Theatre’s scheduled production before the company folded last year, re-gathered much of the original team and is now producing the play himself at the Fox. Featuring Ashton, Brock Benson, Steef Sealy, Paragon’s Warren Sherrill and Kevin Hart. Directed by Paragon’s Michael Stricker. Through March 2 at 9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or the Aurora Fox’s home page. Photos by John Moore of www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks to Charles Packard, cast and crew.

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.

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IMG_5703John Ashton, serving as both producer and actor, unloads his car of opening-night treats.

 

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The well-worn “Seafarer” script.

 

IMG_5758Jesus enjoys a space on the wall in the Aurora Fox men’s dressing room. He’s saying, “Break a leg, ye fecks! J.C.”

 

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Video: A rocking Curtain Call for Aurora Fox’s ‘Picasso’

Not every Curtain Call is as fun as this one for “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” presented by Ashton Entertainment at the Aurora Fox Theatre. Performers include Johnny Barber, Eric Mather, Benjamin Cowhick, Steef Sealy, Tupper Cullum, Jack Wefso, Kurt Brighton and Talia Liccardello. Info:  Through Oct. 14. Info: 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org. Video by John Moore.

Posted with permission of producer John Ashton.

 

Benjamin Cowhick and Jack Wefso in “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” Photo courtesy Aurora Fox.