Denver Sonnets Project, No. 11: Crystal Verdon Eisele

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

We are rolling out new Sonnet videos … well, as soon as they are completed. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

For Sonnet 11, award-winning actor and now two-time mother Crystal Verdon Eisele ponders Shakespeare’s entreaty to beautiful women that procreation is not only their sacred duty but the path to their own immortality. Crystal ponders motherhood gone bad but ultimately concurs “thuo shuoldst print more – and not let that copy die.” Crystal recently appeared in the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s world premiere of “And the Sun Stood Still.”

The Denver Sonnets Project is an ongoing public art project, open to a variety of actors and filmmakers. Another new short sonnet film is posted here every Monday. Please support the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org. Video series by John Moore.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register for a future episode, email your interest to John Moore at culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

CRYSTAL

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”

Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”

Sonnet 6, Joe Von Bokern: “Make worms thine heir!”

Sonnet 10, Augustus Truhn: “Thou art so possessed with murd’rous hate …”

Sonnets 11: Crystal Verdon Eisel:

Sonnet 17: Anne Sandoe: “If I could write the beauty of your eyes …”

Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”

Sonnet 31: Sean Scrutchins and Devon James: “Thou art the grave where buried love doth live …”

Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”

Sonnet 44: John Carroll Lynch, “Thought kills me that I am not thought …”

Sonnet 47: Adrian Egolf, “Thyself away are present still with me …”

Sonnet 55: Cajardo Rameer Lindsey:  “You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes”

Sonnet 73: Jim Hunt: “Love that well which thou must leave ere long …”

Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”

Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”

Sonnet No. 91: Sam Gregory: “Thy love is better than high birth to me”

Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”

Sonnet 124: Cast of Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘The Tempest’

Sonnet 131: Josh Nelson, “In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds …”

Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Sonnet 144: Cailin Doran, “Two loves I have, of comfort and despair …”

 

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

Denver Sonnets Project, No. 55: Cajardo Rameer Lindsey

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

We are rolling out new Sonnet videos … well, as soon as they are completed.  Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

For Sonnet 55, multiple award-winning actor Cajardo Rameer Lindsey bleeds into the camera, proclaiming that, through his words, his beloved will outlive buildings, war, fire and to the end of time, living on in the eyes of all lovers who read them. Video production by Ulysses Porter Brown. Lindsey will next star in Curious Theatre’s “In the Red and Brown Water,” running March 7-April 18. Followed by a reprise of “The Brothers Size.” Both are part of a trilogy by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Call 303-623-0524 or click here.

The Denver Sonnets Project is an ongoing public art project, open to a variety of actors and filmmakers. Another new short sonnet film is posted here every Monday. Please support the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org.

Video series by John Moore. Sonnet 55 recorded and produced by Ulysses Porter Brown.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register for a future episode, email your interest to John Moore at culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

cajardp

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”

Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”

Sonnet 6, Joe Von Bokern: “Make worms thine heir!”

Sonnet 10, Augustus Truhn: “Thou art so possessed with murd’rous hate …”

Sonnet 17: Anne Sandoe: “If I could write the beauty of your eyes …”

Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”

Sonnet 31: Sean Scrutchins and Devon James: “Thou art the grave where buried love doth live …”

Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”

Sonnet 44: John Carroll Lynch, “Thought kills me that I am not thought …”

Sonnet 47: Adrian Egolf, “Thyself away are present still with me …”

Sonnet 73: Jim Hunt: “Love that well which thou must leave ere long …”

Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”

Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”

Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”

Sonnet 124: Cast of Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘The Tempest’

Sonnet 131: Josh Nelson, “In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds …”

Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Sonnet 144: Cailin Doran, “Two loves I have, of comfort and despair …”

 

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

Denver Sonnets Project, No. 31: Sean Scrutchins and Devon James

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

We are rolling one Sonnet video a week for … zoinks! … 154 weeks. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

For a very special Sonnet 31, married actors Sean Scrutchins and Devon James, on the eve of the birth of their first child, take a moment to honor their many departed family members who will be immortalized in their son, Liam. “Thou art the grave where buried love doth live …” Scrutchins is a Henry Award (Curious’ “Nine Circles”) and True West Award winner (Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”); while James is a True West Award winner herself (Curious’ “Time Stands Still”). Both are also teaching Artists with the Denver Center Theatre Academy. IMG_4947USE

The Denver Sonnets Project is an ongoing public art project, open to a variety of actors and filmmakers. Another new short sonnet film is posted here every Monday. Please support the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org.

Video by John Moore.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register, email your interest to John Moore at culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”

Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”

Sonnet 6, Joe Von Bokern: “Make worms thine heir!”

Sonnet 10, Augustus Truhn: “Thou art so possessed with murd’rous hate …”

Sonnet 17: Anne Sandoe: “If I could write the beauty of your eyes …”

Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”

Sonnet 31:  Sean Scrutchins and Devon James: “Thou art the grave where buried love doth live …”

Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”

Sonnet 44: John Carroll Lynch, “Thought kills me that I am not thought …”

Sonnet 47: Adrian Egolf, “Thyself away are present still with me …”

Sonnet 73: Jim Hunt: “Love that well which thou must leave ere long …”

Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”

Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”

Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”

Sonnet 124: Cast of Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘The Tempest’

Sonnet 131: Josh Nelson, “In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds …”

Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Sonnet 144: Cailin Doran, “Two loves I have, of comfort and despair …”

Look here for a new sonnet every Monday. For more information on The Denver Sonnets Project, and how to sign up, please email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

Denver Sonnets Project, No. 10, Augustus Truhn

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

We are rolling one Sonnet video a week for … zoinks! … 154 weeks. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

AUGIE TRUHN 100For Sonnet 10 — our 17th short film to date — Boulder actor Augustus Truhn turns another of Shakespeare’s many (many!) entreaties for procreation into something quite different. Here, without changing a word, Truhn presents the sonnet instead as one tortured man exhorting himself to allow love into his life before it is too late. For a man unwilling to care about himself cannot have love in his heart for anyone else. Truhn played Petruchio in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2010 “The Taming of the Shrew” and appeared last summer in the Germinal Stage Denver’s “Offending the Audience.” His wife, actor Karen LaMoureaux, will next appear in Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Ambition Facing West,” opening Oct. 9.

The Denver Sonnets Project is an ongoing public art project, open to a variety of actors and filmmakers. Another new short sonnet film is posted here every Monday. Please support the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org.

Video by John Moore.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register, email your interest to John Moore at culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”

Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”

Sonnet 6, Joe Von Bokern: “Make worms thine heir!”

Sonnet 10, Augustus Truhn: “Thou art so possessed with murd’rous hate …”

Sonnet 17: Anne Sandoe: “If I could write the beauty of your eyes …”

Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”

Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”

Sonnet 44: John Carroll Lynch, “Thought kills me that I am not thought …”

Sonnet 47: Adrian Egolf, “Thyself away are present still with me …”

Sonnet 73: Jim Hunt: “Love that well which thou must leave ere long …”

Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”

Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”

Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”

Sonnet 124: Cast of Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘The Tempest’

Sonnet 131: Josh Nelson, “In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds …”

Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Sonnet 144: Cailin Doran, “Two loves I have, of comfort and despair …”

Look here for a new sonnet every Monday. For more information on The Denver Sonnets Project, and how to sign up, please email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

The Denver Sonnets Project, No. 17: Anne Sandoe

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

ANNEPICWe are rolling one Sonnet video a week for … zoinks! … 154 weeks. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

For our 15th Sonnet, No. 17, veteran Boulder actor Anne Sandoe turns Shakespeare’s wooing into a mother’s love letter to her daughter. The mother believes her daughter’s beauty will make a liar of her words over time, for no one will believe any human face was so divine. That is unless for a grandchild: Evidence that her beauty lives on both in the author’s words, and in the child. Sandoe is currently playing Lillian Troy in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “I Hate Hamlet” through Aug. 9.

Video by John Moore. Another new short sonnet film is posted here every Monday. Please support the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register, email your interest to culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”

Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”

Sonnet 17: Anne Sandoe: “If I could write the beauty of your eyes …”

Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”

Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”

Sonnet 44: John Carroll Lynch, “Thought kills me that I am not thought …”

Sonnet 47: Adrian Egolf, “Thyself away are present still with me …”

Sonnet 73: Jim Hunt: “Love that well which thou must leave ere long …”

Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”

Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”

Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”

Sonnet 124: Cast of Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘The Tempest’

Sonnet 131: Josh Nelson, “In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds …”

Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Sonnet 144: Cailin Doran, “Two loves I have, of comfort and despair …”

Look here for a new sonnet every Monday. For more information on The Denver Sonnets Project, and how to sign up, please email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

The Denver Sonnets Project, No. 144: Cailin Doran

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

CAILINWe are rolling one Sonnet video a week for … zoinks! … 154 weeks. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

Four our 14th sonnet, No. 144, smoldering actor Cailin Doran (Arvada Center’s ‘The Great Gatsby’) considers the temptations of good and evil as two potential suitors in a bar who may have greater aspirations than her mere affections. These two flirts, she believes, are an angel inside a devil inside her own hell. But she’ll never know until her bad angel expels the good one out of hell.

Video by John Moore. Another new short sonnet film is posted here every Monday. Please support the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register, email your interest to culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”

Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”

Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”

Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”

Sonnet 44: John Carroll Lynch, “Thought kills me that I am not thought …”

Sonnet 47: Adrian Egolf, “Thyself away are present still with me …”

Sonnet 73: Jim Hunt: “Love that well which thou must leave ere long …”

Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”

Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”

Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”

Sonnet 124: Cast of Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘The Tempest’

Sonnet 131: Josh Nelson, “In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds …”

Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Sonnet 144: Cailin Doran, “Two loves I have, of comfort and despair …”

Look here for a new sonnet every Monday. For more information on The Denver Sonnets Project, and how to sign up, please email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

Denver Sonnets Project, No. 44: John Carroll Lynch

By John Moore

IMG_7500SMCultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

We will roll one Sonnet video a week for … zoinks! … 154 weeks. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

For our ninth sonnet, No. 44, film and TV veteran John Carroll Lynch (“Fargo,” “Zodiac,” Gran Torino”) took us to the Satire Lounge on East Colfax to play a man who has a communication breakdown while missing his wife. Lynch is a graduate of Regis Jesuit High School. Video by  John Moore. Learn more about Adam Stone here.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register, email your interest to culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”
Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”
Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”
Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”
Sonnet 44: John Carroll Lynch, “Thought kills me that I am not thought …”
Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”
Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”
Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”
Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Look here for a new sonnet every Monday. For more information on The Denver Sonnets Project, and how to sign up, please email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

 

 

Audience plants: The scourge of the American theater

Overeager hand-clappers make me want to kill. Not clap.

Overeager hand-clappers make me want to kill. Not clap.

 

By John Moore
Jan. 8, 2013

It’s been a year since I’ve been on the record with a critical theater review, and I am (perhaps ill-advisedly) celebrating my anniversary of not having to go on the record saying something that might unilaterally anger the entire local  theater community … by going on the record saying something that might unilaterally anger the entire local theater community. But damn the torpedoes, someone has to speak out for the people, people!

This is a rant about my biggest pet peeve in all of theater. Worse than ringing cell phones. Worse than old ladies draping their coats over their chairbacks and into my lap. Worse than candy wrappers, open-mouthed gum-chewing and the occasional production that goes through its paces with complete seeming ambivalence. OK, not worse than that.

Audience plants are the scourge of the American theater. And I’m here to tell all of you directors and producers out there that when you plant a seed, er, seat, in your audience,  you only succeed in burying your production six feet into the ground.

You know what I’m talking about: The impossibly over-eager audience-member (often the director himself), who starts leading rounds of maniacal clapping two beats before every single scene or song in a show is even over.

This ploy is meant to cajole or trick the audience into believing that perhaps something remarkable has just occurred, whether it actually has or not, and you should be joining in on the fervid acknowledgement of that fact. And you just know the person is a plant because anyone who is experiencing a powerful moment in the theater for the first time could not possibly have processed an honest reaction that quickly. And because the clatter is emanating high in the balcony, or deep in a vom near the exit. You can spot a plant a mile away. They laugh louder (and more quickly) at the jokes, even when the line isn’t even really a joke. Before the last line of the heroine’s intimate ballad is even sung, these vermin are smacking their hands together like they are crawling with red ants.

Whether audiences should even be clapping at scene changes is another rant for another day, but here’s one thing I can tell all  you directors: When you plant someone in the audience to lead the clapping and cheering, YOU DESTROY THE AUTHENTICITY OF OUR OWN PERSONAL RESPONSE TO WHAT JUST HAPPENED. And not only do I refuse to participate in it, you instead instill feelings of enmity and contempt deep inside me, rather than appreciation. So you are working against your own best interests.

When I hear a song, and it moves me, my hands instinctively move to clap together at a reasonable decimal. But before I even get my hands off my lap, the overeager rat-a-tat-tat begins, and that automatically sends my hands back to my sides. I don’t want to be a part of it. So I don’t clap at all. I cross my arms and seethe a little bit. And that’s not fair to the actors who deserve at least some honest response. But I just can’t do it when I feel like I’m being led off a plank into shark-infested waters at gunpoint. I want to take the fake-clappers’ hands and grind them into a blender.

And that’s not what live theater is supposed to be all about, now, is it?

Here’s a thought: Trust your actors. Trust your audience. If there is a silence where you think there should be noise, consider it  just may be that silence is the most appropriate response for the moment. It doesn’t mean we aren’t appreciative. It means we are reflecting, processing. You’ll get your appreciation in the end. Denver audiences are generous to a fault that way.

I just don’t understand why directors and producers are so afraid of honest quiet. All I know is that when you create an artificial response, you destroy the art you  hoped to create.

Now … knock it off!

This rant was brought to you by the silent majority who really appreciate what you do. Believe us. We just weren’t on the cheerleading squad in high school.

 

 

Review: “Memphis” lifts you higher and higher

Felicia Boswell as Felicia and Bryan Fenkart as Huey in “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

By John Moore

Oct. 10, 2012

“Memphis” is a sparkling Broadway musical that, to start, takes on race relations in almost the vein of a superficial fairy tale: A well-meaning white man wanders into the danger of a blues club on the dark side of town with all the blissful naivete of Larry Kroger in “Animal House.” The power of music to heal centuries-old hate and social injustice becomes evident in the story’s first fanciful few minutes. We know where this is going.

Actually, we don’t.

Give writer Joe DiPietro some credit: Like any good grim (or Grimm) fairy tale, “Memphis” spreads frightening violence and surprisingly complex moral quandaries like bread crumbs along its unpredictable way. But it’s staged within the palatable structure of a traditional Broadway musical, which is largely why, paired with its gravity-defying choreography, soulful original score and huge heart, “Memphis” won the 2010 Tony Award for best musical.

When it won, it was the favorite, but not necessarily the obvious pick. It was seen then as the safe choice up against form-bending new musicals like “Fela!” and “American Idiot.” It was a worthy choice, but I preferred “Fela” — and it’s a shame the closest we may ever come to seeing that great musical about the legendary Afrobeat pioneer in Denver was a Boulder concert last March by his son, Seun Kuti.

But then came a surprisingly powerful simulcast of a Broadway performance of “Memphis” that was beamed to movie theaters nationwide, bringing a wall-sized immediacy to the racial stakes at play. “Memphis” is now touring the country, stopping in Denver through Oct. 21, and the biggest surprise might be how this visiting production manages to strike an even more resonant chord – both emotionally and vocally – than the dynamite original Broadway cast.

Check that. The biggest surprise, hands down, is that the Tony-winning original score was written by Dave Bryan, best known as the keyboard player for the big-hair metal band Bon Jovi. I overheard an older audience member at Tuesday’s opening performance in Denver  commenting on how surprised she was that she hadn’t heard the infectious pop ditty “Someday” growing up. She didn’t because she couldn’t. The song didn’t exist then. At a time when the easy route to Broadway is to populate your musical with existing, known pop sings like “Rock of Ages,” this one boldly writes its own period pop.

Like Jackie Wilson’s beloved song, this musical keeps lifting you “higher and higher” … and maybe because it doesn’t rely on existing songs like “Higher and Higher” to make its case. As Bon Jovi namesake Jon Bon Jovi himself said, Bryan’s house-imploding climactic ode “Memphis Lives in Me” “is the greatest song Elton John never sung.”

The touring cast is remarkable, though with four understudies on Tuesday, the staging was unsteady in brief places. Honestly, I never thought any woman could ever touch what Montego Glover pulled off as Felicia on Broadway, but touring star Felicia Boswell made it plain Tuesday that both women are clearly touched by some higher power.

Felicia (the character) is a young black singer with no chance of having her voice heard in 1950s Memphis outside her Sunday church service. Not until a renegade white DJ named Huey (loosely based on Dewey Phillips), well … wanders into her brother’s all-black club and promises to get her heard on middle-of-the-dial mainstream Memphis radio stations. Boswell presents a more hardened and opportunistic Felicia who understands from the start that stardom and freedom from the stifling hometown her lover is deeply rooted to will come at a profound cost — and the choices she makes may surprise you.

She is joined by co-star Bryan Fenkart, who, like Boswell, was a standby in the Broadway company of “Memphis.” Both were promoted to leading roles for this national touring production.

Felicia Boswell as Felicia in “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Fenkart is a poor sot who’s cursed by the physical inability to believably embody the short, odd-looking (and odd-sounding) man the character of Huey the DJ is often described to be. It’s curious whenever Hugo is referred to as a strange-looking man when, bizarre fashion sense notwithstanding, Fenkart is clearly cut from the cloth of the classic Broadway leading man. Well, there are curses and there are curses, I guess. Theater requires some  suspension of disbelief, so it’s best to just let that ride. Like Boswell, Fenkart is an accomplished singer who achieves emotional highs and lows as an actor with the same kind of range that a four-octave singer hits notes. Chad Kimball, who originated the role on Broadway, deserved his Tony nomination, despite employing a spoken cadence that seemed bent on intentionally alienating audiences. But even performing in a theater twice as big as Broadway, Fenkart connects with his love interest, and his audience, in a singular way.

Another standout is Julie Johnson as Huey’s mother, whose racism is initially sold as pure Southern comic caricature. But the audience’s laughter quickly shifts to justifiable seething and finally to catharsis as her Gladys slowly changes her deeply-seeded ways.

Having seen “Memphis” in three iterations now, I had no intention of reviewing this national touring production. But damn it to Jackson, “Memphis” had me tearing up again at its not-so-obvious climax. That, I figure, is reason enough to want to help spread its musical gospel.

John Moore was the theater critic at The Denver Post from 2001-11, and in 2011 was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in America by American Theatre magazine.

 

Ticket information:

When: Through Oct. 21

Where: Buell Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th & Curtis streets.

Tickets: $25-$105 

Contact: denvercenter.org or 303-893-4100

 

More coverage:

“Memphis” on the movie screen: Is it better than Broadway?

John Moore’s Broadway review of “Memphis” (originally published in The Denver Post on June 10, 2010)

Quote: “Everybody wants to be black on a Saturday night.”

Think of it as “Hairspray” — with a different kind of heft. Not the heft of that little fat girl who singlehandedly integrated Baltimore with the swivel of her John Waters hip. “Memphis” instead tells the tale of the first white DJ (loosely based on Dewey Phillips) to put so-called “race” music on mainstream radio in 1950s Memphis, to both his great wealth and peril. This musical has everything Broadway audiences have always loved — showstopping, singable songs set to fantastic choreography and the kind of story from our recent past that leaves us feeling slightly superior about how far we’ve come since the bad old days. Despite the truly wrenching potential of this story — it includes interracial love, racism, violence and professional betrayal — it’s palatably told here, straight down the middle of the road, just like Broadway audiences usually want it. (It’s written by Joe DiPietro of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”). What makes it a powerful musical to be truly reckoned with is its irresistible score. The songs are so authentic to the period, you may not believe this is all-original power-pop, R&B and gospel written by, of all people, David Bryan of Bon Jovi.

Colorado connection: Montego Glover, a favorite to win the best-actress Tony, appeared in the Arvada Center’s “Putting it Together.”

 

National touring production of “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

Felicia Boswell and the national touring production of “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

Bryan Fenkart as Huey in “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

Julie Johnson as Huey’s mother, Gladys, in the national touring production of “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

National touring production of “Memphis.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

The average price of a live theater ticket in Colorado is …

Those “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at the Arvada Center are charging the top ticket price in town. Photo by P. Switzer.

 

By John Moore

Sept. 28, 2012

Earlier today, I solicited comment from Facebook followers on my anecdotal observation that the fall theater season in Colorado seems to be off to a sure-no-fire start. Some of the most anticipated new works of the fall appear to be playing to houses that are far more empty than full. The last four plays I have attended have averaged 22 people each.

A check of the Denver Center’s website shows that almost 500 tickets remain available tonight for its three homegrown offerings (“Fences,” “The Three Musketeers” and “Love, Perfect, Change”) on what should be a crowded Friday fall night at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.  That doesn’t even account for a half-empty Buell Theatre hosting the touring production of “Stomp.”

Readers offered many intriguing possible reasons, including campaign burnout. But the leader, far and away, was a timeless culprit: It’s just too expensive in this stagnant economy. I’ve been a theater critic since 2000, so I’ve never done this when it hasn’t been a down economy. So surely there is more to it than that. But before we address other potential factors, let’s take a look at that No. 1 (with a killer bullet) reason offered.

I polled every theater that is offering a live theater production on this very night, and it turns out the average price for an adult ticket among the 40 companies is $33.18. That’s showing up at the door, with no advance discount.

That is somewhat inflated by the seven companies that offer dinner with a show (at an average of $49.71). Taking the dinner shows out, the cost to see a play or musical is still a hefty $29.67.

And theater companies will tell you that your ticket price typically pays for less than half of what it actually costs them to bring you their entertainment.

Some numbers jump out from this list: That the Arvada Center’s LOW ticket price is equal to the MOST expensive dinner-theater ticket ($59). Also becoming a major factor in same-day ticket buying these days is “dynamic pricing,” where companies drive up the cost of their precious last few remaining seats as demand rises – and curtain-time approaches. But with crowds way down at the Denver Center — “The Three Musketeers” opened just last night in the Stage Theatre, and tonight there are more than 250 available seats, according to the Denver Center’s web site, as of 3 p.m. today.

Personally, I’d love it if theater companies went more toward RUSH ticketing discounts in the hours before a show begins, rather than trying to maximize every last penny whenever the market allows for it. Does dynamic pricing make for long-term customers? I doubt it. Would $15 RUSH tickets for “Fences”? Possibly.

I also think this list bears out just how hard it is for commercial theaters to compete with the erroneously named “non-profit” theaters, when the only distinction between the two is that commercial theaters don’t qualify for public funding, and donations to them aren’t tax-deductible. More on that subject here.

I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on pricing, but I also want to impart some of the other factors readers offered up about this issue. So for now, here is the breakdown of ticket prices, and I’ll leave pricing at that. Please submit your own conclusions in response.

TICKET PRICES FOR CURRENTLY RUNNING PRODUCTIONS (listed in descending max-price order):

1. Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” $59-$73 (musical)
2. National touring production of “Stomp” $26-$62 (live music)
3. Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” $48-$58
4. Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” $47-$57
5. Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” $18-$44
6. Denver Center Attractions’ “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” $40 (musical)
6. Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” $20-$40 (musical)
8. Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Gypsy” $30-$37 (musical)
9. TheatreWorks’ “The Glass Menagerie” $16-$35
10. Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Threepenny Opera” $30.50-$34.50 (musical)
11. Rocky Mountain Rep’s “The Marvelous Wonderettes” $30 (musical)
11. Ben Dicke’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” $25-$30 (musical)
13. OpenStage’s “Wit” $16-$27
13. Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” $22-$26
15. Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules” $18-$25
15. The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl” $22-$25
15. Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names” $25
18. Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” $5-$24
19. Abster Productions’ “August Osage County” $20-$23
20. Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure” $18-$22
20. Thunder River’s “Ghost-Writer” $12-$22
22. Evergreen Chorale’s “The Sound of Music” $14-$21 (musical)
23. LIDA Project’s “Add it Up” $18-$20
23. Thingamajig’s “The Last Five Years” $20
23. Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” $20
23. The Edge’s “Boom” $20
23. Su Teatro’s “La Carpa Aztlan presents: I Don’t Speak English Only” $17-$20 (live music)
28. Backstage’s “The Belle of Amherst” $18
28. Curtain Playhouse’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” $15-$18
30. Thin Air Theatre Company’s “Greater Tuna” $9.50-$15.50
31. Star Bar Players’ “God of Carnage” $6-$15
31. Colorado Actors Theatre’s “Rumors” $10-$15
33. Shack Over There’s “Mafia Macbeth” $12
Average max price: $29.67

Dinner theaters
1. Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights” $49-$59 (musical)
1. Dinner Detective’s “Murder Mystery Dinner Show” (at Midtown) $59
3. Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s “Fiddler on the Roof” $29.50-$57.50 (musical)
4. Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q” $40-$56 (musical)
5. Adams Mystery Playhouse’s “Welcome to Murder Mortuary” $42
6. Heritage Square Music Hall’s “American Idols” and “Under the Gaslight” $39.50 (musical)
7. Jester’s Dinner Theatre’s “My Fair Lady” $25-$35 (musical)
Average max price: $49.71
Totals: $33.18

Here are selected reader comments:

Geoffrey Kent: Election years are tough. Nothing like constant economy talk to get people to tighten purse strings.

Jim Honiotes: One man’s opinion: Too many theater companies competing for patrons. Numerous groups have started up in the last year, just as others (some biggies) have closed. God bless the hearts of these theater folks who dream big. But there are too few hard-nosed business types really grinding the numbers and saying, “Man, this just isn’t gonna work.” We lead with our dreams and hearts and choose to ignore the stark realities.

Stacy Christine: I agree there may be too many theaters. I’ve got 23 bookmarked, which isn’t all of them, and if each averages four or five shows a year, that’s a lot to choose from. Many shows will be ignored just because the market is saturated. Script selection is also bizarre. Some might want to consider balancing artistic risk-taking with the economic environment. Practically, is this the right time to stage something that is going to be a hard sell to begin with? Shows can also be expensive. Though Curious generally delivers, I’m hesitant to pay more than $30 anywhere else. The average theatergoer might be less likely to pay a lot for a small show when they could see a big touring production for $50 or $60 (my ticket to “Stomp” last night was only $25). I see about 50 shows a year, and have no problem attending the risky shows. But, the theaters need to understand that those risks, while artistically satisfying, may well result in a house that sits two-thirds empty. This past year, I most enjoyed shows at Curious, Vintage, Spark, and Town Hall. Fences at the Denver Center was stunning.

Sarah McAfee: Parenthood. I also wonder if the combination of heat, economy, election politics, overwhelming choices and general busy-ness are just all combining to lead the general public (myself included) into such exhaustion that they want nothing more than to stay home and hide from the world.

Don DeVeux: Time and money, plus, sometimes, subject matter. If you look historically, certain shows do well during down-times because people want to escape. Other shows do well during prosperous times because people feel the need to examine other parts of their lives and the world around them.

Becky O’Rourke: So many shows, too little time! Add to that all the high-school productions (that hold kids hostage and gobble up many weekends). The best-laid plans… Also, not to offend, but when Big Head Todd pulls a standing-room crowd at Red Rocks vs. Idina Menzel’s 5,000 – that would seem to indicate a “different” kind of audience around town.

Amber Marsh: PHAMALY’s (Denver’s handicapped theater company) audiences have been dishearteningly small. I think people are getting ground down with too much to do. They are overscheduling themselves, and their kids too.

Chris Woolf: Impulse Theater crowds have actually been somewhat decent (around 60 last night) even when we’ve been rocking the same format for 25 years. Viva la improv!

Pat Payne (Spotlight Theatre): I can tell you Spotlight just closed “Murder on the Nile,” and we had one of our highest-grossing shows ever. Played to 90-plus houses for our final three performances.

Becca Farrell Fletcher: Personally, the economy. There are at least two or three shows every weekend I’d go see if I had the means. These days, I’m lucky if I get in a show every other month. It would be easy to just say “ticket prices,” but there are a LOT of really reasonably priced tickets out there. I can’t afford Denver Center or Arvada Center prices, but that leaves wide-open hundreds of shows that are reasonably priced. Sadly it comes down to “theater tickets … or feed my kids.” Kids win every time. Almost.

Dave Dahl: My answer is “all of the above.” Audiences remind me of the old joke where the king sends for his court playwright and says, “Give me something new … but not TOO new. Give me something funny … but not TOO frivolous. Give me something dramatic … but not TOO tragic.” I think audiences are getting tired of the old plays that sell, but are wary of new works too. So it’s this weird balancing act. Companies are sort of pinched to make their best guess.

Carol Steinberg Wolf: It does not matter what the reviews are for shows, the audiences don’t seem to be there.

Rebecca Salomonsson: For me it’s the simple fact that I can rarely afford tickets and a babysitter for my kids. I never see the big shows that come through because of the exorbitant prices, and even a night out at the smaller theaters costs $50-$60 dollars with tickets and babysitting. I see everything I can when I can get comps or major discounts.

Paige Price: The election! No one can get their message heard through all the bile out there. Especially in (swin-state) Colorado. The only ones doing well are the advertising sales folks.

Susan Lyles (And Toto Too theater company): As a parent, it’s an expensive night out. Tickets plus a sitter (charging a minimum of $10 per hour). As a friend and a producer, that’s why we offer cheap date-night ticket prices and haven’t raised our prices since 2005.

Marcia Polas: I agree with the election-year comments. But I’ll also suggest that I’m not sure the right methods are being used to reach new audiences and drive them to the theater. This might include cross-marketing, and finding ways to get existing fans/patrons to do word-of-mouth marketing and bring newcomers to the party. But I also believe there are potential young audiences who, if communicated with in the right manner (message and vehicle), will become regular patrons.

Carla Kaiser Kotrc: Ticket prices. I went to four shows two weekends ago. It cost me almost $200.

Paul A. Page: Ticket prices and Broncos season.

Ken Paul (“August: Osage County”): I wondered if everyone spent all of their money to see “The Book of Mormon.”

Clint Heyn: I wonder if there is a way to show audiences that, when looking at total date night, live theater can be the same cost as a movie, when one can pay much less for concessions at many small theaters.

Jack Wefso (“Picasso at the Lapin Agile”): Plus, taking a date to the (live) theater is WAY classier than the movies.

Tricia Moreland: I’m in “The Sound of Music” with the Evergreen Chorale right now. It’s directed by Bernie Cardell. We are half-way through the run, and two of the last six shows are sold-out. The other four are getting close. I know it’s a family show, so maybe that makes a difference, but a lot of people have been excited to come see us.

Jennifer M Koskinen: I’ve noticed and wondered about this, too … And there are so many fantastic shows right now! This season’s lineup at the Denver Center is fantastic with such diverse material between “The Three Musketeers,” “Fences” and “The Giver.”

 

… while the Shack Over There’s Shakespeare riff, “Mafia Macbeth” is the least-expensive theater ticket in Colorado.

Photos: Opening night of Local’s “Elijah: An Adventure”

“Elijah: An Adventure” star Benjamin Bonenfant, with Anna Faye Hunter. Photo by John Moore

 

By John Moore

Sept. 22, 2012

Photos from the party following the opening-night performance of Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure,” by Michael Mitnick. It’s one of our “11 most intriguing titles of the fall season.” More on the production here.

I crashed (what else?) the party after seeing Abster Productions’ “August, Osage County,” also at the Dairy Center (through Sept. 30).

Continue reading

Public invited to celebrate theater producer Bob Garner on Saturday

Robert Garner with Chuck Morris. “Two old show-biz pals,” Garner wrote on Facebook. Photo via Joanne Davidson, The Denver Post

 

By John Moore for CultureWest

Friends of legendary Denver theater producer Robert Garner know the last thing the tireless bon vivant would probably want is a memorial party on his behalf to be held in a classy ballroom, but … I’m guessing, that will be just the start of a party to celebrate a true Denver original on Saturday, Sept. 8.

You know him, and if you don’t, here’s my look back at the man for all ages, who died July 19, no doubt very much against his will.

The fun begins at  3 p.m. in the Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, at the corner of 13th and Arapahoe streets.

Being an intrepid reporter, I have interrogated several sources who have confirmed on the condition of complete anonymity that there will be an open bar and hors d’oeuvres for this event.

Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. You are asked only to RSVP to this page, so that organizers know how much food to get.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Project Angel Heart.

To read several tribute pieces to Bob, click here

I can’t tell from the information I have been given just how long this party is expected to last, but the goal is for it to outlast the Ballroom stage and spill over into some other gathering place in the immediate vicinity. Check back for updates on that vital information.

Fall 2012, No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” with Patrick Byas in the title role, is getting ready to rumble in both Denver and Colorado Springs. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

 
By John Moore

When: Sept. 1-Oct. 13 at  Curious Theatre in Denver (previews Aug. 30-31); Oct. 19-Nov. 11 at TheatreWorks in Colorado Springs

Written by: Kristoffer Diaz

The story: This rare intersection of sports and theater centers on a  frustrated Puerto Rican professional wrestler. It seems his lot in life is being the guy who loses to cocky megastar Chad Deity. But when he and his Indian-American partner reinvent their wrestling personas as Muslim fundamentalist enemies to America, his career suddenly becomes very interesting indeed. Diaz creates a unique theatrical experience (including live wrestling!) that forces one to question the disturbingly persuasive power of ethnic stereotypes in our popular culture. This is a high-decibel, audience-interactive theatrical event, with explicit language, sweet staged violence, thrashing music and all-around awesomeness. You have been warned.

Why it made the list:  This regional premiere marks the first co-production between Curious Theatre Company in Denver and TheatreWorks in Colorado Springs, both of which will be among the first companies in the country to present this groundbreaking play. “This collaboration has allowed our two theater companies to combine forces and produce a play that may have been beyond the scope of either company independently,” said TheatreWorks artistic director Murray Ross. “Plus, it’s a lot of fun to share ideas with our colleagues in Denver and work with them to make something really exciting.”

 

Cast list:

Director: Chip Walton

Chad Deity: Patrick Byas

Patrick Byas: Chad Deity

William Hahn: EKO

Akshay Kapoor: VP

Michael Lopez: Mace

Bruce Rogers: The Bad Guy

Plus three real-life, local wrestlers: Ronin, Brian Keith Nelson and Brandon Morris.

 

Where: In Denver: 1080 Acoma St.

In Colorado Springs: Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Regent Circle, corner of Union and Austin Bluffs Parkway on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus

 

Performance times: In Denver: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays in Denver

In Colorado Springs: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays;  4 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: In Denver: $25-$44
In Colorado Springs: $35 reserved; Children under 16 $15; UC-CS Students free
Contact: In Denver: 303-623-0524 or curious’ home page
In Colorado Springs: 719-255-3232 or theatreworks’ home page

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

 

 

Fall 2012, No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”

Ben Dicke as an emo-rocking, Indian-slaying seventh U.S. president in his self-produced, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” He’s shown with music director Jason Tyler Vaughn.

 
By John Moore

When: Sept. 7-Oct. 28

Written by: Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers

The story:  This inventive ensemble piece, developed by a bunch of talented smart-alecks,  is a comedic, Wild West rock musical about the founder of the Democratic Party, who was either one of the greatest U.S. presidents, or America’s Hitler. Or both. It presents Andrew Jackson, America’s seventh president, as a modern-day emo rock star who stumbles into populism, Indian removal and tremendous power. The musical is both a treatise on  America’s pop-culture celebrity obsession (then and now) and a compelling (and occasionally even factual) historical account. This underdog show briefly transferred to Broadway, not because it had any chance of fitting in on the Great White Way, but because producer Oskar Eustis wanted to increase  its exposure so that renegade artists like Denver’s Ben Dicke might be daring enough to start a theater company just to put his little skit on for metro theater audiences.

Why it made the list:  Because, along with “Spring Awakening” and “The Book of Mormon,” this is among my favorite  three musicals of the millennium. Because, when it came out in 2009 at the off-Broadway Public Theatre, I thought it blew the lame and lazy Green Day vehicle “American Idiot” out of the water. Because it’s both smart and satirizing, and perfectly timed for the distressingly relevant 2012 political campaign season. And because theater at large desperately needs more musicals with rock music like this one that will invite younger audiences in like no other.

Cast list:

Andrew Diessner

 

Director: Ben Dicke
Musical Direction: Jason Tyler Vaughn
Choreographer: Piper Arpan

Chris Arneson: Henry Clay/Black Fox
Joel Chavez: John Quincy Adams
Ben Dicke: Andrew Jackson
Andrew Diessner: Bandleader
Kaden Hinkle: Lyncoya Jackson
Traci Kern: Storyteller
Kenzie Kilroy: Female vocalist
Cora Marsh: Female vocalist
Norell Moore: Rachel Jackson
Josh Nelson: Martin Van Buren
Alejandro Roldan: James Monroe
Steffan Scrogan: John C. Calhoun

Where: Aurora Fox studio theater, 9900 E. Colfax Ave.

Performance times:  7:30 Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $25-$30

Contact: 303-739-1970 or the aurora fox’s home page

 


 

My review of the original “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” in New York

Quote: “Sometimes, you have to shoot the storyteller in the head.”

Call it the antithesis of “American Idiot.” This hormonally charged new off-Broadway musical also employs driving emo-punk rock — only ingeniously. This is a hysterically funny history lesson on a man who was either America’s greatest expansionist, or its Hitler. Or both. Emerging in tight jeans and eye liner, one hand on his holster and the other on his mic, our seventh president is presented here in the same way some see President Barack Obama: as a brooding, smoldering rock star. If you are familiar with the irreverent intelligence of Denver’s Buntport Theater, you have a good bead on this audacious mash-up of fact and tomfoolery.

We meet A.J. as he’s just become an orphan at 14. “Life sucks,” he says with deadpan timing, “. . . and my life sucks in particular.” But through catchy ditties like “Populism, Yea, Yea,” you can’t help but come out with a surprisingly sharpened understanding of a dusty chapter in American history — including the part about the (first) stolen presidential election.

This musical comes from the same company that took Hell House out of Colorado and introduced it to New York audiences as theater. Originally intended to run for only a month, it’s been extended three times at the Public Theatre.

Photo: Benjamin Walker strikes an Ashton Kutcher-like “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” (Photo by Joan Marcus)

 
The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox studio theater
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

Fall 2012, No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”

Clockwise from left: Missy Moore, Abby Apple-Boes, Anne Oberbroeckling, Kerry Beebe and Lisa Kraai  are the women of “August: Osage County.” Photo by Rachel Graham.

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 7-30

Written by: Tracy Letts

The story:  Letts’ 2008 Pulitzer-winning play is perhaps the most savage American family drama in 50 years. When the patriarch of an Oklahoma town disappears, three generations of Westons gather to bicker and attack one another. At the center of this modern Dust Bowl is the poisonous pill-popping matriarch, Violet. She has cancer of the mouth – medically and metaphorically. Violet has no switch to prevent her from blurting the most vicious things that come to her mind. Be prepared: The evening includes two intermissions, more profanity than there is soap to chew and, all told, it lasts 3 1/2 hours. But it speeds by, if it’s done right — and it’s both funny and devastating.

Why it made the list:  Both the Denver Center Theatre Company and Curious Theatre had right-of-first-refusal on this modern masterpiece, but the sheer size and cost of producing it professionally no doubt conspired to prompt both of them to pass. That leaves this audacious, brand-new amateur company with no established artistic reputation whatever to take on what others its size can’t, won’t or are too afraid to themselves. OK, Abster, you’ve got our attention … Now show us what you’ve got.

My review of the 2009 national touring production: The only thing missing is Willy Loman driving into a tree at the end. http://www.denverpost.com/theater/ci_12939453


Cast list:

Anne Oberbroeckling

 

Director: Peter Hughes

Wade Livingston: Beverly Weston
Anne Oberbroeckling: Violet Weston
Abby Apple-Boes: Barbara Fordham
Lisa Kraai: Ivy Weston
Missy Moore: Karen Weston
Jay Louden: Bill Fordham
Christine Sharpe: Jean Fordham
Matt Maxwell: Steve Heidebrecht
Kerry Beebe: Mattie Fae Aiken
Gary Leigh Webster: Charlie Aiken
Shane Delavan: “Little” Charles Aiken
Amanda Kowalski: Johnna Monevata
Ken Paul: Sheriff Deon Gilbeau

Where: Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Tuesday, Sept. 18; 2 p.m. Sundays

 

Tickets: $20-$23 ($18 on Sept. 18)

Contact: 303-444-7328 or the dairy’s home page

 

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox studio theater
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

Fall 2012, No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”

Midtown Arts Center will become the first Colorado company to stage the 2008 Tony-winning best musical, “In the Heights.” From left: DeVon Bucanhan, Cassidy Cousineau, Darius Anthony-Robinson, Tim Olivar, Chasdan Mike, Jessica Guerrero, Hector Flores Jr., Ryan Alvarado. Photo courtesy Nicole Yost.

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 13-Nov. 11

Conceived by: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Written by: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes

The story:  The 2008 Tony Award winner for best musical integrates beat poetry, hip-hop and spoken word into the traditional musical-theater form to tell the story of a gentrifying Upper Manhattan barrio, a place where “the coffee is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music.” It’s a story about what it takes to make a living, and what it costs to have a dream.

Why it made the list:  Midtown Arts Center has made scoring the first Colorado stagings of big-time Broadway musicals part of its mission. Previous firsts include “Cats,”  “Miss Saigon,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Altar Boyz,” “The Producers,” “Rent,” “Next to Normal” and  “Avenue Q.” For this staging, Rogelio Douglas Jr., a member of original Broadway cast
and a member of the first national touring production, is serving as director and choreographer.

My review of the 2010 national touring production: “In the Heights” is a “Fiddler” for modern America http://www.denverpost.com/entertainment/ci_14986331


Cast list:

Tim Olivar

 

Directors: Rogelio Douglas Jr.
Usnavi: Tim Olivar
Abuela Claudia: Deb Farwell
Vanessa: Alyssa Chiarello
Nina Rosario: Alyssa V. Gomez
Benny: Steven Charles
Sonny: Ryan Hazelbaker
Daniela: Ryane Studivant
Carla: Jodi Watson
Kevin Rosario: Alexander Casasnovas
Camila Rosario: Jasmine Romero
Piragua Guy: Hector Flores, Jr.
Graffiti Pete: DeVon Buchanan
Female Ensemble: Cassidy Cousineau, Jessica Guerrero
Male Ensemble: Chasdan Mike, Darius Robinson, Ryan Alvarado

Where: 3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins

Performance times: 7:15 p.m. select Thursdays through Saturdays; 1:15 p.m. Sundays (dinner service 90 minutes before).

Tickets: Starting at $49 (more for dessert, drinks and menu upgrades)

Contact: 970-225-2555 or midtown’s home page

Additional comments: ‘In The Heights’ is a beautiful piece of theater that speaks to generations of Americans. Coming from a Cuban family, this show has a special place in my heart and is dedicated to my grandmother, Abuela Regina.” Actor Tim Olivar

‘In the Heights is the next chapter in the story of the American family. It’s timely considering the ever-present immigration debate. The themes of hope, change, and the struggles of the middle class that frame this election season play out in this energetic, positive and powerful state premiere.” Artistic director Kurt Terrio

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 


Fall 2012, No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”

“The Giver” opens Oct. 4 at the Denver Center’s Ricketson Theatre.

 

By John Moore

When: Oct. 4-Nov. 18 (opens in previews Sept. 28)

Written by:  Lois Lowry, adapted by Eric Coble

The story:  Lowry’s beloved and oft-challenged dystopian children’s novel comes to the stage in a new version by Coble, whose “Bright Ideas” and “The Dead Guy” have been staged at Curious Theatre.  The story follows a boy named Jonas through the 12th year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness,” a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of “Receiver of Memory,” the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. When Jonas meets the previous receiver — The “Giver” — he discovers the power of knowledge. The people in his community are happy because they do not know of a better life, but the knowledge of what they are missing out on could create major chaos. He faces a dilemma: Should he stay with the community, his family living a shallow life without love, color, choices, and knowledge  — or should he run away to where he can live a full life?

Why it made the list:  Though the novel sold 5.3 million copies and is read by many middle schools,  it also made the American Library Association’s  list of the most-challenged books of the 1990s. I’m excited by this being the first Denver Center Theatre Company production to be made up of an all-local cast since I don’t know when. Billie McBride, Diana Dresser and Timothy McCracken are among those joining DCTC veteran Philip Pleasants in the title role. Young Alistair Hennessy starred in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2011 “The Little Prince.”


Cast list:

Philip Pleasants

 

Director: Christy Montour-Larson

The cast:

Father Timothy McCracken
Mother Diana Dresser
Lily: Aliza Fassett and Amelia Modesitt
Jonas: Jackson Garske and Alistair Hennessy
Asher: Gabe Koskinen-Sansone and Evan Sullivan
Fiona: Brynn Gauthier and Isabel Sabbah
Chief Elder: Billie McBride
The Giver: Philip Pleasants

Where: Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets

Performance times: 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.

Tickets:  $37-$47 (previews $27-$37)

Contact: 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s home page

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

 

Fall 2012, No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”

From left, the women of Local’s “Elijah: An Adventure”: Rachel Fowler, Leah Watson, Mare Trevathan, Lauren Dennis and Barbra Andrews. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

 

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 21-Oct. 7 (previews Sept. 19-20)

Written by: Michael Mitnick

The story: “Elijah: An Adventure” is Mitnick’s 16-character, multimedia, epic romp about a broke piano student from Brooklyn who becomes an accidental Don Juan in 1920s Paris. This is a story fit for most audiences, but particularly those caught up in the rush of the American life.

Why it made the list: The company, and the playwright, are young and on the rise. Mitnick may look like he just stepped off the set of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” but he’s already established himself as one of the most successful new playwrights in the nation. He’s writing the much-anticipated book for the upcoming Broadway musical “Animal House: The Musical” (featuring music by Bare Naked Ladies); and his new play “Ed, Downloaded” will get its world premiere at the Denver Center Theatre Company in January 2013. And he’s a nice guy. Everybody wins.

Cast list:

Benjamin Bonenfant


Director: Pesha Rudnick

Benjamin Bonenfant: Elijah
Barbra Andrews: Helen Roux
Matthew Blood-Smyth: Nicholas Stoughton
Lauren Dennis: Rivka Feinberg/Telegrapher
Rachel Fowler: Elisa Broussard
Chris Kendall: Father/Georges Deruet
Mare Trevathan: Frieda Hoch/Piano Teacher
Leah Watson: Zoe Benoit/Sarah
Stephen Weitz: Otto Hoch/Tailor

 

Where: Carsen Theater at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

Performances:  7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: $25 at the door; $22 for tickets purchased in advance, or $18 for tickets bought in advance by students or members of the Colorado Theatre Guild

Contact:  303-440-7826, or thedairy.org

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

Fall 2012, No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”

Two-time Henry Award-winning best actress Megan Van De Hey makes her Miners Alley Playhouse debut in “The Three Penny Opera.”

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 7-Oct. 21

Written by: Bertolt Brecht, music composed by Kurt Weill

The story: Brecht’s milestone musical is a biting satire of the post-war rise of capitalism, wrapped up in Weill’s jazzy score and the tale of Macheath (Mack the Knife), a debonair crime lord on the verge of turning his illegal empire into a legitimate business.  When Macheath marries Polly Peachum, her father (Jonathan Peachum) is greatly angered.  He controls the beggars of London, and he strives to get Macheath hanged.  Peachum exerts considerable political influence, and eventually Macheath is arrested and imprisoned.  At the point of execution, in an unrestrained parody of a happy ending, a hard-riding messenger from the Queen dramatically arrives at the last minute, and Macheath is both pardoned, and elevated to the title of Baron.

Why it made the list:  Miners Alley Playhouse, which isn’t known for musicals, is branching out by taking on a difficult piece in an election year. And by landing Megan Van De Hey, winner of the past two Henry Awards for best actress in a musical, it’s not messing around. It’s worth noting that director El Armstrong has cast three members of the local handicapped theater group PHAMALy (Lyndsay Palmer, Daniel Traylor and Briana Berthiau). Not for any poltical or creative point — only because they have killer singing voices.


Cast list:

Richard Cowden

 

Director: El Armstrong

The cast:
Briana Berthiau
Erica Lyn Cain
Richard Cowden
Don DeVeux
Rob Gale
C.J. Garbo
Kris Graves
Dana Hart Lubeck
Verl Hite
T.J. Hogle
Michael Ingram
Lisa Morse-Moore
Lyndsay Palmer
Juliette Petersen
Daniel Traylor
Megan Van De Hey

Where: 1224 Washington St., Golden

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays (except for the closing matinee on Oct. 21, which begins at 2 p.m.)

Tickets: $30.50-$34.50; senior, student and group rates available

Contact: 303-935-3044 or map’s home page

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

 

Fall 2012, No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”

Kate Wenner

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 13-23

Written by: Kate Wenner

The story: Set in a university brain trauma clinic, five vets injured in IED explosions in Iraq confront the truth that their lives will never be the same again. Josephine Fitch, the passionate, tough-minded doctor treating them, decides to expose the Pentagon’s indifference to the epidemic of brain injuries that she believes will turn out to be the Agent Orange of the Iraq War.

Why it made the list: This will be a workshop production of a new work by an award-winning news producer of ABC’s “20/20,” who began her research for the play at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. But why this play? In an era of a voluntary military, our civilian and military communities are separated as never before by a huge divide in experience and understanding. This will also be be the FAC Theatre Company’s first offering in its new studio theater space. “This is the perfect play to initiate our second-stage series,” said producing artistic director Scott RC Levy. “The piece is topical and connected to our community. I look forward to workshopping it and getting valuable feedback from our audiences, which will help Kate continue to develop the work.”

Cast list:

Jason Lythgoe

 

Dr. Jo Fitch: (University brain-trauma specialist): Ashley Crockett
Marine Lance Corporal Kevin Daniels: Jason Lythgoe
Sue Daniels (Kevin’s mother): Sallie Walker
Army Staff Sgt. Mike Ames: Emory Collinson
Sandy Ames  (Mike’s wife): Jen Lennon
Army Staff Sgt. Mano Rodriguez: Hossein Forouzandeh
Angel Rodriguez (Mano’s wife): Christine Vitale
Lt.  Colonel  Banks (Department of Defense): Mark Cannon
Army Staff Sergeant Annie Nichols: Marisa Hebert
Navy Corpsman Jackson Cantrell: Chris Medina


Where:
FAC Music Room in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St., 719-634-5583 or the fac’s home page

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Prices: $15

Contact: 719-634-5583 or the fac’s home page

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

 

Fall 2012, No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center

Caitlin Wise and Steven Cole Hughes in Creede Repertory Theatre’s “Is He Dead?” Photo by John Gary Brown

 

By John Moore

When: Oct. 2-28 (previews Sept. 28-30)

Written by: Mark Twain, adapted by David Ives

The story: In this newly discovered Mark Twain comedy (and recent Broadway hit), the original master of American humor dishes out a sly critique of the art world with acerbic wit and social commentary well ahead of his time. Cleverly adapted for modern audiences by David Ives, “Is He Dead?” is a fast-paced farce about a struggling artist who stages his own death to drive up the price of his paintings. As the riotous scheme unfolds, Twain poses daring questions about fame, greed and the value of art, and pokes his signature, mischievous fun at everyone involved.

Why it made the list:  A “new” play from Mark Twain? Bring it. Plus, it’s another chance for Denver audiences to see old favorites like John Arp and Steven Cole Hughes, with other actors who help make the Creede Rep, located 250 miles southwest of Denver, one of the state’s best theater companies. This is Creede’s third straight fall to bring one of its summer productions to the metro area. It’s a fine tradition. And if you just can’t wait till October, you can still see it performed in Creede through Sept. 20 (719-658-2540 or 1-866-658-2540).


Cast list:

Director: Michael Perlman
Agamemnon Buckner (“Chicago”): Tosin Morohunfola
Hans Von Bismark (“Dutchy”): Patrick Du Laney
Marie Leroux: Caitlin Wise
Cecile Leroux: Adrian Egolf
Papa Leroux: John S. Green
Jean-Francois Millet: Steven Cole Hughes
Bastien Andre: John Arp
Madame Bathilde: Annie Butler
Madame Caron: Christy Brandt
Phelim O’Shaughnessy: Chad Afanador
Basil Thorpe/Claude Riviere/Charlie/King: Graham Ward

Where: Arvada Center studio theater, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, also 1 p.m. Wednesdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays (no Saturday matinee on Sept. 29)

Prices: $42-48

Contact: 720-898-7200 or the arvada center’s home page

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

 

Fall 2012, No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Roger Simon, Lisa Rosenhagen and Dave Ufford in Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names.” Photo by Michael Ensminger.

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 8-Oct. 14

Written by: Jeffrey Sweet

The story: A drama about an aging actor, Benny, who was blacklisted during the 1950s and was unable to find employment for years before finding success in television.  His actress daughter, Norma, is cast in a play directed by his old friend who testified against him before the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Now Norma wonders whether the two can reconcile.

Why it made the list:  According to playwright Jeffrey Sweet: “The play keeps getting done because the blacklist keeps mutating and re-inventing itself in every political era, so the story stays relevant.” As for the name of the theater company, “Or” is the Hebrew word for “light.”


Cast list:

Roger Simon

Director: Richard H. Pegg
Roger Simon as Benny
Lisa Rosenhagen as Norma
Dave Ufford as Leo

Where: At the Pluss Theater in the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., Denver

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays (half-price preview 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6; no performances Sept. 16 or 27)

Prices: $20-25

Contact: 303-316-6360 or www.maccjcc.org

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

Iddo Netanyahu: Is there “A Happy End” for our troubled world?

 

Kevin Hart plays an acclaimed Jewish physicist who can’t see the writing on the wall in 1932 Berlin. Photo by John Moore
 

By John Moore

  • When tropical storm Isaac promised to a score a direct hit on Haiti last week, thousands of earthquake victims chose to ride it out in exposed, shanty tents. At least eight people have died.
  • It turns out the Aurora theater gunman made threats months before the July massacre that went unaddressed.
  • When Adolf Hitler became German dictator in 1934, it did not spark an immediate exodus of Jews.

That’s the flawed goodness of human nature, says Iddo Netanyahu. We ignore warning signs — often to our own peril.

“If people tell us there might be some impending disaster, our natural tendency is not to believe it,” said Netanyahu, a doctor, historian, soldier, playwright … and, yes, brother of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Playwright Iddo Netanyahu is in Denver to debut the U.S. premiere of his new play, “A Happy End.” Photo by John Moore

He’s in Denver to stage the U.S. premiere of his ironically titled new play “A Happy End,” the story of a Jewish German couple facing the decision whether to leave Germany in 1932 amid the imminent rise of the Nazi Party. The mother of Netanyahu’s wife did. The minute Hitler took power, Jewish children were no longer allowed to go to school in Germany, so her family left for Switzerland.

But virtually no one else did. And a dozen years layer, the Nazis were responsible for 6 million deaths.

“The fact is that even up to 1939 — we’re talking six years after Hitler was elected — only 50 percent of the Jews decided to leave Germany,” Netanyahu said. “They were deluded. They were in love with their lives. They were in love with German society. Remember, this was the first country that had given the Jews full rights. And they could not bear to think, after hundreds of years there, that this country would want not only to expel them, but to liquidate them.”

“A Happy End” might be set 80 years ago, but Netanyahu had no interest in writing a historical play. “I think any playwright’s interest, including Shakespeare, is in his own times,” he said. So it may be impossible for anyone watching Netanyahu’s story not to hear the ominous drumbeats currently percussing around the world. The U.S. economy still teeters on a cliff. A nuclear Iran is threatening to erase Israel from the map. Netanyahu’s brother has warned in response: “Time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out.”

The idea that we live in a safe world is becoming more and more absurd by the day. We hope for the best, and yet we do nothing.

Who’s missing the signs in 2012? That’s up to individual playgoers, Netanyahu said. When “A Happy End” was performed in Israel, he said, “two of the actors were thinking the danger was from the leader of a certain right-wing party … and it’s not my brother.” To Americans, it might be the economy fully collapsing. To Netanyahu, there is no question. “In Israel, the danger is the Iranian bomb,” he said. “Are you going to wait until they have a bomb or are you going to bomb them and take the chance that you might not succeed? That is an unbelievably hard decision to make. Thank God it has to be made not by me. It has to be made by other people.”

Meaning his brother.

 

It can be intimidating to meet a Netanyahu. Especially when you are an actor who is asked to audition long-distance via Skype. And he will be your scene partner. Oh, and he’s playing your female lover.

“That was my first conversation with the brother of a world leader,” joked “A Happy End” actor James O’Hagan-Murphy, who plays a man having an extramarital affair with the wife of a celebrated German atomic physicist in “A Happy End,” opening Sept. 1 at the Buntport Theater in Denver. But Netanyahu made him feel at ease.

“He’s very down to earth and has a great sense of humor,” O’Hagan-Murphy said. “The other night we discussed ‘Angels in America.’ He wasn’t familiar with the plot, and I described my character as a closeted, married gay Mormon lawyer. He replied, ‘Oh, and then he runs for president against Obama?’ ”

Netanyahu says he lives a surprisingly ordinary life divided between Israel and the United States, where he is a radiologist when he wants to be, and a playwright when he needs to be.

Netanyahu spent his final year of high school here and graduated from Denver South while his father was a history professor at Denver University. “I had spent the previous two years on my own in Israel, but for my final year of high school, I decided to be with my parents,” he said.

Being the brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, who was Israel’s prime minister from 1996-99 and again starting in 2009, “strangely doesn’t affect me very much,” he said. “It might affect me more as an artist in terms of whether people want to read what I have written or not because of who I am.”

Acclaimed Czech actress Zuzana Stivinova stars as an avid consumer of Berlin’s rich cultural life in “A Happy End.”

He submitted “A Happy End” to a major theater company in Tel Aviv anonymously. “They accepted it without knowing who wrote it,” he said, “and to their credit, when they found out who did, they went ahead and staged it.”

Unlike his brother, Iddo is listed in the Israeli phone book, and he takes a phone call or two each month from random people complaining or wanting certain things. He spends time with his brother, he said, “but, look: He’s basically a prisoner with bodyguards,” and he has been ever since the 1995 assassination of Benjamin’s predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin.

“Every year it becomes worse and worse. Obviously you can’t go out on the town. So we sit, and we talk … and that’s about it.”

There was one other Netanyahu brother … Yonatan, or Yoni. He was the eldest son of Zila and Benzion Netanyahu, who was a prominent Israeli historian and taught at Cornell University, where Iddo and Benjamin attended. Yoni was a celebrated poet and soldier who died a national hero during Operation Entebbe, the 1976 counter-hostage rescue mission that freed more than 100 Israeli and Jewish passengers of an Air France flight overtaken by a Palestinian terrorist group.

Yoni (Jonathan) led the 29-man assault on the terminal where the hostages were being held, and he was the only Israeli soldier killed in action.

Military service is compulsory in Israel, and the Netanyahus were no exceptions. Benjamin fought on the front lines in the Yom Kippur War. Iddo left Cornell to fight in the same war in 1973. He was a member of a special commando unit that was dispatched to rescue a group of paratroopers who became stranded on a high, snowy mountain peak on what is now the border between Syria and Israel.

“We knew how to navigate in the snow, and we knew the terrain, so we were sent to rescue them,” Netanyahu said. “But believe it or not, on the way, one of us froze to death.” Netanyahu’s first short story was a cathartic attempt to come to grips with that trauma.

His first book was an attempt to answer lingering, troubling questions about brother Yoni’s death at Entebbe. Yoni, 30, already had become a local legend because of a book of poems and personal letters he had written late at night by candlelight while serving in the military. Author Herman Wouk (“War and Remembrance”) called Yoni’s writings “one of the great documents of our time.” Yoni’s funeral was televised, sealing his eternal place as a national symbol of Israel.

According to the official account of the operation, Yoni was accidentally shot by an airport sniper. “That was based on the testimony that a single officer gave, and it was pure fiction,” Netanyahu said. In 1976, the very idea that either an enemy or friendly bullet could have torn the young heart of one of Israel’s finest sons was simply unacceptable. So a lie was constructed. Ten years later, Iddo started to hear things that did not fit with the official version of events, and he set out to learn the truth. Why?

“Because it’s a philosophical question,” he said. “There is truth, and there is objective truth. I’m not a believer in postmodernism. Bereaved people always want to know the exact truth. They don’t want to hide from it.  When you have a brother that you loved who died, whether for good or for bad, you want to know what happened.”

But is there a difference between wanting to know the truth, and wanting the truth to be known?

“Look, you might find it strange coming from a brother but … it was not a matter of, ‘Is he a hero?’ ‘Is he not a hero?’ I was old enough to understand this famous Americans saying : ‘You can’t beat a dead hero.’ ”

Netanyahu soon discovered that, in the years following Yoni’s death, no other members of the secret unit his brother led that day had talked openly about the raid. And no one from the media, military or government had come asking.

“No one,” he said.

Netanyahu did, setting off an avalanche of new information – and controversy. He published 800 pages of testimonies taken over 10 years that easily disproved the sniper theory. He offers instead full arguments for both enemy and friendly fire. But does it really matter?

“No, that’s not the issue to me,” he said. “The issue to me was documenting what really transpired during the raid.  Being in medical school for six years, you come to appreciate trying to sort out facts from fiction. My goal was to describe the facts as well as you can. Raise conjectures. Did it do me good, this kind of analysis? I think so. I think so.”

 

Playwright and director Ami Dayan, who grew up on a secular kibbutz in Israel and found his way to Boulder pretty much through yoga, admits, “it was odd at first to envision a substantial artistic collaboration” with Iddo Netanyahu, given that Dayan is from the far left of the Israeli political spectrum. “But when we met,” Dayan said, “common tastes and artistic preferences quickly came to the forefront.”

Together they have staged “A Happy End” in Italy, Germany, Tel Aviv, and soon in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.  In Denver, the play will star acclaimed Czech actress Zuzana Stivínová and veteran Denver actor Kevin Hart.

Netanyahu could have chosen a dozen times and places in history to set his story, but he chose the Holocaust “because everybody in the world knows what their choice should be,” he said. “We are all sitting there in the audience rooting for them to make the choice of leaving Germany — otherwise they will find themselves in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.”

None of us can predict the future, but sometimes the obvious thing should be obvious, and you have to look reality in the face, Netanyahu said.

“But sometimes what is obvious is not so easy to decipher. We really are captives of our beliefs. We have a hard time accepting reality when they clash.”

The married couple in his play are not foreigners. They grew up in Berlin, and they are Jewish. Should they have known better? “A lot of this play has to do with how Jews see their place in society — and how do they want society to look at them?” Netanyahu said.

But he adds flatly,  “A Happy End” is not a story for Jewish audiences alone.

“If I wrote a play that is only for Jewish people, then I failed as a playwright,” Netanyahu said. He believes it is a story for anyone facing an uncertain future.

“The world is in turmoil, and you don’t know where it’s going,” he said. “American power is in decline, and other economic forces are emerging. There are times when you dread to think what will happen. We all like to think that the world is getting better, and we’re advancing. We like to think that the world is a calm place, basically, and we like to think that life, as it is, will last forever. Well, it won’t.

“But you cannot live without hope. You have to live with a certain amount of delusion. And that’s the great paradox of human existence. That’s what I’m showing in the play.”

Benjamin Netanyahu has read “A Happy End,” but he has not seen it in any of its live iterations. “As the prime minister of Israel — no, he can’t attend public performances,” Iddo said. “It’s just not doable.”

Well, he could come and safely see it here in Denver.

“Maybe,” Netanyahu said with a laugh. “Who knows? Maybe he will.”

———————————————-

Contact John Moore at 303-953-9907 or moore433@comcast.net

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“A Happy End”

  • Sept. 1-16 (previews Aug. 30-31)
  • At Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., Denver.
  • 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.
  • Tickets: $25 ($18 Aug. 30-31); seniors and students $15.
  • 720-289-6451 or ahappyend.com

Cast:

  • Zuzana Stivinova
  • Kevin Hart
  • James O’Hagan-Murphy
  • Mary Cates
  • Evan Duggan
  • Heather Taylor