Photos: My night at Starkey Theatrix’s ‘Home for the Holidays’

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By John Moore
Dec. 18, 2013

Welcome to my ongoing, 2013 labor-of-love photo series bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes on opening nights in Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the official “Opening Nights” photo series to date (these ones are specifically the “Home for the Holidays” outtakes), click here.

Opening No. 149: Starkey Theatrix’s “Home for the Holidays 2013″: This 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, Ian Meyer, 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. Remaining showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18, 19 and 22; 8 p.m. Dec 20 and 21; 1:30 p.m. Dec. 21 and 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.

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?


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Video: Shout-outs to 2013 Henry Award nominees

By John Moore
July 18, 2013

Members of the local theater community give their shout-outs to this year’s field of 2013 Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award nominees. One comes all the way from Poland. The ceremony is July 22 at the Arvada Center.

Video by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Running time: 7 minutes.

Shouters and the shouted at include: Colin Alexander, Joanie Brosseau, Rhonda Brown, Chris Campbell, David Cates, Matthew Dailey, Jennifer DeDominici, Ben Dicke, Terry Dodd, Michael J. Duran, Jonathan Farwell, Deb Flomberg, Brian Freeland, Ronni Gallup, Rachel D. Graham, Josh Hartwell, Tim Howard, Peter J. Hughes, Michelle Hurtubise, Wendy Ishii, Rebecca Joseph, Chris Kendall, Chris Kitchen, Madison Kitchen, Carla Kaiser Kotrc, Rod Lansberry, Sue Leiser, Lauren Cora Marsh, Matt Maxwell, Gavin Mayer, Melanie Mayner, Norrell Moore, Josh Nelson, James O’Hagan-Murphy, Anne Oberbroeckling, Jessie Page, Paul Page, Pat Payne, Max Peterson, Robert Michael Sanders, Steef Sealy, Megan Van De Hey, Jason Tyler Vaughn, Vintage Theatre, Burke Walton, Bob Wells, Chris Wiger, Kathi Wood and Ryan Wuestewald.

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2013 Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards
Monday, July 22
Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
Tickets: $25; available only through the Arvada Center box office, 720-898-7200
Info: Go to the Colorado Theatre Guild web site


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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

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

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

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


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.” …


Director: C’mon. That was funny!


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)

Photos: Opening weekend of ‘Always … Patsy Cline’

From left: Carla Kaiser Kotrc as Louise, music director Jalyn Courtenay Webb and Megan Van De Hey as Patsy Cline.


By John Moore
April 14, 2013

Opening No. 54: Starkey Theatrix’s “Always … Patsy Cline”: Photos from opening weekend, including an on-stage proposal! Starring Megan Van De Hey as Patsy Cline and Carla Kaiser Kotrc as Louise Seger. Also featuring the Bodacious Bobcats: Neal Dunfee, Dan Hoeye, Jason Tyler Vaughn, Bob Case and Scott Alan Smith. Directed by John Moore (Hey, that’s me!). Musical direction by Jalyn Courtenay Webb. Through April 20 at the PACE Center, 20000 E. Pikes Peak Ave., in Parker. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; also 2 p.m. Sundays, April 14. Tickets: 303-805-6800 or Thanks: Seth Caikowski, Shaun Albrechtson, Ronni Gallup, Chris Starkey.

This photo gallery is part of my ongoing, 2013 labor-of-love photo series called “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes all over Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the actual, official photo series featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 54 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

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For my return to directing, I got plenty of advice from more experienced, well-wishing directors around town. Advice, such as: “Break their spirits.” (Turns out, the actual expression is, “Break a leg”). Also: “You must wear a beret and carry a riding crop.” (Who knew?) So before opening night, Carla Kaiser Kotrc (Louise) gave me just that, so I played along. As did co-star Megan Van De Hey (Patsy).


Flowers for Carla Kaiser Kotrc on the VIP preview night.


The Bodacious Bobcats, from left: Bob Case, Jason Tyler Vaughn, Scott Alan Smith, Neal Dunfee and Dan Hoeye.


Drummer Dan Hoeye.






Director John Moore and Megan Van De Hey (Patsy).




Megan Van De Hey reflecting at sound check.


The (at times persnickety) sound and video cues.


Producer Ronni Gallup and stage manager Seth Caikowski.




Guitarist Jason Tyler Vaughn: “I played my heart out for this show, and all I got was this lousy CD!”


Bringing Schlitz back to cool, like it’s PBR.


Taking a moment during sound check.


(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of our photos from opening weekend of “Always … Patsy Cline”)