Theater

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Buntport Theater reveals a storage container concept for a new show

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 1:59 PM

You can still catch Buntport's The Rembrandt Room at The MAT through this weekend - COURTESY MILLIBO ART THEATRE
  • Courtesy Millibo Art Theatre
  • You can still catch Buntport's The Rembrandt Room at The MAT through this weekend
Buntport Theater, a lauded Denver-based performing arts company, always does things a little differently. If you’ve attended any of the shows they’ve brought down to the Millibo Art Theatre — such as The Rembrandt Room, which runs at The MAT through this weekend — you’re well aware that their brand of theater is both off-the-beaten-path and accessible to all sorts of audiences.

In this instance, they’re up to something particularly intriguing. Buntport just rolled out a press release for a show they’re planning to stage in May, if only because they have already started the rather extensive process to create it.

Using up to $500, the company is going to purchase a storage unit at auction (like that TV show, Storage Wars) and use the contents of the storage unit as inspiration to create an original production from the ground up. To make it just a little harder on themselves, they’ve established some rules.

1. We can go up to three times to an auction. We can buy at any time, but we must buy on the third if we have not already.
2. We can spend up to $500 on a storage unit.
3. We will brainstorm the plot and design of the show based on what we find in the unit.
4. We have to use at least 75% of what is in the unit on the stage during the show. [NOTE: we are allowed to throw out anything that does not seem safe (i.e. covered in mold) before narrowing down to 75%]
5. We can alter the contents in any creative way that we choose.
6. We can supplement and alter with anything that we already own. Supplementation cannot exceed the amount of stuff we get from the unit.
7. We can spend an additional $200 on building materials or any necessary prop, set, or costume piece. We can also spend any money made off of selling items from the unit that we will not be using.

There's no telling right now what the play will be about, what it will look like or, really, anything else about it. All we know is it’s sure to be interesting.

If they don’t schedule a staging at the Millibo, we’ll make sure you know when and where to catch it.


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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Dragon Theatre offers Arts Month incentives to theater fans

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 1:17 PM

As you probably know from all the events going on around town, October is Arts Month. Written into the purpose of this arts explosion is a challenge: have one new cultural or artistic experience during the month of October.

For those of us who endeavor to do that every month, Dragon Theatre Productions and COPPeR are stepping it up a notch.

Dragon Theatre has officially challenged the public — that’s you — to see as many theater productions as you can possibly fit into these few weeks, and they’ve got goodies in mind for those who complete the challenge.

If you see four or more shows, you can enter to win a prize (which includes theater tickets and other “swag”), and if you see more than four you could become the “Community Theater Supporter Supreme,” a title which comes with its own crown and sash.
The Elephant Man runs Oct. 13-30 at Springs Ensemble Theatre
  • The Elephant Man runs Oct. 13-30 at Springs Ensemble Theatre

Any theatrical performance in the area counts toward this challenge, whether you’re into October’s traditional round of Rocky Horror Picture Shows or more small-scale performances like The Elephant Man at Springs Ensemble Theater or The Bold, The Young and the Murdered at Funky Little Theater Company.

You can print out an entry form and drop it off at the COPPeR office, 121 S. Tejon St., #111, anytime before Nov. 8. There’s still plenty of Arts Month left to go, and plenty of shows left to see.

If you need suggestions, check out our theater listings.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Funky Little Theater Company reveals season lineup

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 1:32 PM

On Saturday, Aug. 20, Funky Little Theater Company announced its third season. Though Men of Steel, which is currently on stage and will run through Aug. 27, is technically the first show of “Chapter Three,” the company managed to keep the second production of the season a secret until the announcement. It has been in rehearsals for about three weeks.

Trash, which is the title of the play and not an early review, is billed as “a funny, highly inappropriate, most likely offensive, not your mama’s comedy.” It will be directed by Jeremiah Miller, featuring performances by Ellen Regina, Sallie Walker, Chad Orr, Chelsie Rigor and Chris Medina.
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The plot follows a former Hollywood starlet who now lives in a trailer with her family. A blogger tracks her down for an interview, but her kids assume that, since he’s from California, he’s a producer. They try to pitch a movie idea to him “and hilarity ensues,” according to stage manager Lucas Schoenemann.

Artistic Director Chris Medina says “Every rehearsal we just laugh and laugh and laugh, probably because of how inappropriate it is.”

Performances begin Sept. 9 and run Thursdays through Saturdays through Sept. 24. The playwright, Johnny Drago, will be visiting for closing weekend to do talk-backs.


Post-Trash, here’s what the company has coming up:
  • Oct. 15 and March 25, 24SEVEN/Afterdark: Pulling short plays from previous 24SEVEN events and creating a few new ones, cast members enjoy some adult beverages after their performance, then do it all over again to see if inebriation changes anything. Judging by previous events, it absolutely does. 
  • Oct. 28-Nov. 12, The Bold, The Young and The Murdered by Don Zolidis: Funky’s Halloween production follows a cast of warring soap opera stars as they attempt to produce one last episode to save their show. “Essentially shit’s on the line and they start dropping dead,” Medina says.
  • Dec. 2-17, The Nerd by Larry Shue: Rather than doing a classic Christmas show, Funky will present this comedy about “an architect stuck in a rut and facing a milestone birthday, whose life is suddenly, hilariously upended by the unexpected appearance of an old army buddy.”
  • Jan. 9 and July 15, 24SEVEN: Reprising the favorite one-day play festival in which seven playwrights, seven directors and 24 actors bring seven short plays to live within 24 hours.
  • Jan. 20-Feb. 4, [Record] [Transfer] [Erase] by Jeremiah Miller: This world premiere written by company member Jeremiah Miller is a retro-sci-fi drama. In a dystopian world, adults’ eyes are removed and replaced with recording devices so the government can view video (on true retro VHS tapes) of everything a person does. The main character has her own reasons for not wanting to undergo the procedure.
  • Feb. 9-Feb. 18 The Vagina Monologues: Funky’s annual take on Eve Ensler’s award-winning collection of monologues, featuring veteran and new female performers.
  • March 3-18, Spectrum: The second edition of Funky’s now-annual LGBTQ play festival, which received 269 submissions nationally last season and produced eight world premieres.
  • April 7-22, TBA: Though Funky original planned to stage Tennessee Williams’ classic Sweet Bird of Youth, the show has been cancelled and will be replaced. See here for updates. 
  • May 17-June 3, Extremities: Ending on an intense note, the closing show of Funky’s season is about an attempted rape, a woman turning the tables on her attacker and the moral gray area between punishing an attempted crime and the crime itself.
Auditions will be held in two rounds, one in fall and one in spring.

Fall auditions for The Nerd and [Record] [Transfer] [Erase] will be held Sept. 25, 2-4 p.m. and Sept. 26, 5-8 p.m.

Spring auditions for the rest of the season will likely be held Feb. 4-5. See future listings for details.
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Monday, August 10, 2015

Review extra: A Dog's Life at Black Box

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2015 at 12:52 PM

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Our theater critic reviews more shows than we can fit in print. Thanks to his personal blog, Theater Colorado, though, we can share what doesn't make it onto the page.

This time, he took in A Dog's Life, showing now through Aug. 22 at Black Box Theatre:
A Dog’s Life at the Black Box Theatre is something we don’t often see: a non-profit organization (Black Box) doing a fund raiser for another non-profit (Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region). It is truly a credit to Black Box; those with few resources are donating their time and money to others in need. We should all be as charitable; this is theater that makes a difference. For that reason, among others, A Dog’s Life is a valuable theater experience.  
Click here for the rest of the review, which points out the highs and lows of the show.
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Monday, June 29, 2015

Review extra: The Little Prince at Funky Little Theater Company

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 9:56 AM

FUNKY LITTLE THEATER COMPANY
  • Funky Little Theater Company

Indy theater critic Bill Wheeler sees more plays than we can fit into print each week. He also runs his own blog, Theater Colorado, where you can find his critiques on plays both local and regional.

Last weekend, he saw Funky Little Theater Company's The Little Prince, and had this to say:
Funky cast Evan Slavens as The Little Prince, and it’s hard to imagine they could have found a more suitable actor anywhere. Slavens is only a 7th grader at Eagleview Middle School, but he has some heavy duty acting experience, including Ludlow, 1914 at Theatreworks and The Wizard of Oz at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

...  He is onstage nearly the entire 90 minutes of this show, and he has more lines than any other actor on this stage. He never missed a mark, never missed a cue, and never dropped a line. He was, in fact, formidable, holding his own among the “grownups” sharing the stage with him.

It’s not often I get the chance to say this, but if you have children, take them to see Evan Slavens in The Little Prince. Not only will they benefit from seeing Saint Exupery’s story play out in real time, but they may also be inspired by what one of their peers can do on the Funky stage. 
The Little Prince closes July 3. Find tickets here, and read the rest of the review here.
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Friday, June 19, 2015

News from the arts inbox: Art on the Streets, Henry Awards and gallery news

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2015 at 1:22 PM

MICHAEL PACH
  • Michael Pach
Yesterday kicked off this year's batch of Art on the Streets sculptures, which we detailed here. Local artist Sean O'Meallie, who created "Poly Poly," won the $10,000 Juror Prize.

"I’d like to see an eventual treatment of the entire alley that makes it safer, more inviting and easier to use, and enriches the lives of anyone who encounters it,” O'Meallie says in a statement from the Downtown Partnership.

Andy Tirado, who won the Juror Prize last year, and served on this year's panel, won the $1,000 People's Choice award. "Lacuna" hung in the south tower of the Plaza of the Rockies last year, but is now moving to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, where it will hang until next January.

Read more details in the press release following the jump.

The launch party also premiered a video from videographer Rodney RJ Hooks featuring the whole batch of new works and onsite performances from the Soul Mechanics.


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Elsewhere, the Colorado Theater Guild announced nominees for the 10th Annual Henry Awards (of which our critic Bill Wheeler is a part), which honor excellence in the state's theater community. Winners will be announced July 20.

Up for awards are:

Outstanding Production of a Play: The Goat, or Who is Sylvia, Springs Ensemble Theatre, Max Ferguson, Director

Outstanding Direction of a Play: Geoffrey Kent, The Lying Kind, TheatreWorks

Outstanding Actor in a Play: John DiAntonio, The Liar, TheatreWorks and Steven Cole Hughes, The Lying Kind, TheatreWorks

Outstanding Actress in a Play: Amy Brooks, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia, Springs Ensemble Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play: Billie McBride, The Lying Kind, TheatreWorks

Outstanding Costume Design: Hugh Hanson, The Liar, TheatreWorks

KATHLEEN MCFADDEN
  • Kathleen McFadden
Meanwhile, local photographer and gallery owner Kathleen McFadden posted an update on her search for a new location. McFadden's Range Gallery was formerly located in Old Colorado City. In March, McFadden sent a candid email about her relocation:
In our last exciting installment of "Cutter Bill, Range Gallery Dog," the landlord had darkened the doorstep of the gallery demanding an increase in rent which left Kathleen to ponder aloud, "Should we pay the higher amount, or just move?"

She looked over at Cutter Bill, the smartest, friendliest, best gallery dog in the whole world and asked, "Cutter, you're a thinking dog, what do you think?"

She noticed he had rolled up his astroturf mat, pushed all his toys to the door and was looking up at her with an eager smile and a carefree wag of the tail.

Kathleen exclaimed, "You're right again! Wait for me, I'll pack and we'll move to greener pastures!"

Stay tuned to find out where the greener pastures lie in the next episode of, "Cutter Bill, Range Gallery Dog!"
As of today, McFadden is still searching for a location, but in the meantime, she's redesigned her website and started a blog. She writes:
When I closed my gallery in Old Colorado City, I thought I'd have another building within, oh, say 20 minutes. My "20 minutes" has turned into 3 months now. I've taken a serious look at 5 different locations, each with their own attributes and downsides.

I've decided to be Goldilocks about this, I want the location to be Juuuuust Right. So, I have a list of requirements: must be attractive, solid, big, well-built, visible and memorable. Sounds like I'm writing a personals ad for the perfect man, but the perfect building is what I'm in the market for right now.

In the meantime, I'm being creative. I've completely redesigned my website, added new images, retired some. And I'm a lean, mean developing machine, processing dozens of old black and white rolls of film. It's like Christmas.

Which means, when I do find a location for my gallery that's Goldilocks perfect, I will have all kinds of new work to show and new stories to write. Oh boy!

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Frustration reigns as Cottonwood exiles Readers' Theater

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2015 at 4:42 PM

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Today, the Gazette published a letter from longtime local activists Bill and Genie Durland, who together also run Readers’ Theater. That organization was slated to produce an original play, written by Bill, on May 1 and 2 at the David H. Lord Theater at Cottonwood Center for the Arts.

The play, Tribal Tales of Paternal Gods and Predator Peoples: A Parody on Power, Privilege and Property, asks, “What role do religious legends play in the wars, violence and injustice in today’s world?” Durland, a lawyer and board member for the Colorado Springs chapter of the ACLU, has authored numerous books and plays focusing on political, philosophical and religious topics, such as The Ghosts of America Past: A Satirical Morality Play.

According to the Durlands, who also sent their letter to the Indy, their group was told abruptly that Cottonwood would be canceling the play, and that they weren't to return to the theater. No word was given in advance to audience members who showed up only to find out the show had been canceled.

They write:
To the Editor:

After six months preparation and rehearsals, the Colorado Springs Readers’ Theater Players were excited that our sixth play, Tribal Tales, was about to be presented to the community on Friday, May 1 at the David Lord Theater in the Cottonwood Center for the Arts. Our contract with Cottonwood gave us Friday night, the 1st and Sunday afternoon, the 3rd for two presentations of the play and to split the proceeds. Seven hours before curtain time, an employee of Cottonwood sent us an email stating that they had summarily cancelled our opportunity to present our play, which had been thoroughly publicized for weeks and for which we knew that people were even coming from out of state to attend. People showed up at the Center unawares and were simply told the play was cancelled with no explanation. There was no legal or moral reason for this precipitous and deeply harmful action on the part of Cottonwood management. When the director was asked why by a member of our cast, he replied that he was “under no obligation to explain his actions.” We are shocked and saddened by these events. Not only did our players put their hearts and souls into their parts during many rehearsals, people in the community were eagerly anticipating the production. The Cottonwood Center for the Arts holds itself out to be a community resource and a reputable business and should be accountable for their executive actions to their board and to this community. It seems, in this case, we cannot expect that to happen.

Sadly,

Bill and Genie Durland, Author and Editor of all six of the Readers’ Theater productions enjoyed by this community over the past six years.
Today, Cottonwood executive director Jon Khoury took to Facebook to clear the air:

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In a follow-up email with the Indy, the Durlands explain that they had showed Khoury the script to their play, without issue, and had signed a contract with the Lord Theater manager. The contract didn’t stipulate the lights not be modified. As far as what the Durlands can speak to directly, problems between Cottonwood staff and the Readers' Theater members were not confronted before it was too late:
We were given a contract … which ... has no specifics whatsoever about Cottonwood’s protocols and behaviors expected of us. Nothing about their obligations or our obligations. If Jon had concerns “weeks ago” as he said, he should have shared them. We were kept in the dark.

... We were told by Jon that we were rude and hurt staff’s feelings but nobody ever told us that so how could we correct the problem? We told Jon in a letter we wrote him, trying to make clear our position that we felt it was his responsibility as director to convey to us complaints from his staff as they happened. We would have been more than willing and able to make whatever adjustments were necessary. Adequate communication was nonexistent.
Except for an unpaid fee to a graphic designer, there’s no money at issue, as Readers' Theater and Cottonwood planned to split ticket sales 50-50 following the show.

For their part, the Durlands are moving forward. Tribal Tales will now be staged at 7 p.m., May 16, at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church (details here).

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Review extra: Veronica's Room at Funky Little Theater Company

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2015 at 1:10 PM

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This week in Seven Days to Live we suggest you hit up Veronica's Room playing at Funky Little Theatre Company. Now you can get a better idea of what you're in for with our theater critic Bill Wheeler's blog.

Find his full review here. Some highlights from his opening night viewing:
Director Felicia Spirio makes the most of her resources here, guiding the cast through the multiple personalities and plot twists that make Veronica’s Room a challenging script. Spirio’s touch is delicate but disturbing as [main character] The Girl/Susan realizes how much danger she faces.  
Veronica’s Room is an entertaining but disturbing script. Funky Little Theater’s production is spot on and well worth the price of admission.
Veronica's Room runs through May 16, and per FLTC's website, an ASL interpreter has been confirmed for the May 16 final performance.
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Friday, May 1, 2015

FAC's new season: Big names and lots of premieres

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 7:01 PM

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As part of May’s First Friday, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center announced it’s 2015-2016 museum and theater schedule. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from the press releases.

The theater schedule, main stage theater:

Putting It Together: A Musical Review
Sept. 10-27

The Colorado premiere of this Stephen Sondheim play that showcases all things, well, Sondheim. “Featuring nearly 30 Sondheim songs from at least a dozen of his shows (including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Company and Follies), this one-of-a-kind compilation celebrates Sondheim's incomparable career in musical theatre.”

Wait Until Dark
Oct. 15 through Nov. 1

Another Colorado premiere, in which two thieves attempt to break into an apartment outfitted with a mysterious but to-die-for prize. “Frederick Knott’s play inspired a film of the same name and multiple Broadway productions, earning Tony and Academy Award nominations for many of the actors involved — including the film’s star, Audrey Hepburn.”

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Dec. 10, 2015 through Jan. 3, 2016

“The musical you have been dreaming of!” This adaptation of the famous film fits the FAC’s current trend of lavish, family hits during the holiday season.

“Veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis have a successful song-and-dance act after World War II. With romance in mind, the two follow a duo of beautiful singing sisters en route to their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge, which just happens to be owned by Bob and Phil's former army commander.”

Driving Miss Daisy
Feb. 4-21, 2016

A production of this Pulitzer Prize-winning play from Alfred Uhry about a decades-long friendship between a white woman and a black man set in Atlanta shortly before the Civil Rights movement.

Peter and the Starcatcher
March 31 through April 17, 2016

A production of this play by Rick Elice with music by Wayne Barker that won five Tony Awards. “A company of a dozen actors play more than a hundred unforgettable characters, all on a journey to answer the century-old question: How did Peter Pan become The Boy Who Never Grew Up?”

9 to 5: The Musical
May 19 through June 12, 2016

Dolly Parton wrote the music and lyrics to this award-winning play based on the titular film, which follows three fed-up women who try and get back at their “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical” boss. What they end up doing is so much more. A regional premiere.

Second Stage

Elephant & Piggie’s We Are In A Play!
Oct. 8-18

A family affair that’s also a Colorado premiere. Based on the best selling children’s books.

Love, Loss & What I Wore
Nov. 12-22

Sound familiar? Due to the success of last season’s sell-out show (read our preview here, and review here), the FAC is staging it all over again with the entire cast returning for this much-loved Nora and Delia Ephron play.

Buyer and Cellar
Jan. 14-24, 2016

The Colorado premiere of this one-man absurdist comedy about an underemployed actor in Los Angeles who ends up working in Barbra Streisand’s basement. Per the New Yorker: "A fantasy so delightful you wish it were true."

Ivy & Bean: The Musical
April 27 through May 10, 2016

Another family play based on a best selling children’s book series, which follows the unexpected friendship that grows between two different second graders.

The museum:

El Mac: Aerosol Exalted
Oct. 3, 2015 through Jan. 10, 2016

A solo show from this internationally renowned graffiti artist (aka Miles MacGregor) known for his large scale works. “Graffiti art is a natural progression for the FAC, following in the artistic traditions of mural art that extend back to our inception as an institution.”

René Magritte/Springs Surreal
Oct. 24, 2015 through Feb. 7, 2016

Not only a rare chance to see Magritte regionally (in this case, the focal point will be three Magrittes on loan from a private collector), but a juried art show from locals living and working in the Pikes Peak region. (Click here for submission details.)

Don Coen: The Migrant Series
Jan. 23 through May 15, 2016

A series of 15 large-scale realistic portraits of migrant farm workers from Colorado artist Coen. Painted between 1992 and 2012, Coen aims to raise awareness of their plight and express gratitude for their hard work.

FAC Legacy Series: Frank Mechau
March 5 through May 15, 2016

What started with Birger Sandzén and Charles Bunnell will continue with Mechau, a Colorado artist with deep ties to the FAC: He taught at the FAC School from 1937-1938 and painted the lovely horses mural in the courtyard, a true fresco.

A Reservoir of Occurrences: Stephen Batura
June 24 thorugh Sept. 25, 2016

Another solo show highlighting a Colorado artist, Batura paints based on the photographs of little-known Denver photographer Charle Lillybridge, who was active in the early 1900s. “His limited-palette paintings reflect the black-and-white source photographs, yet Batura alters the original images in order to economize the compositions and to reflect his painterly hand.”

All New Women
June 11 through Sept. 18, 2016

The blockbuster of the year, this innovative exhibit pairs the portraiture of John Singer Sargent with the self-portraits of Cindy Sherman, a contemporary artist whose Society Portraits, which will be on display, are a series of photographs depicting herself as “a number of aging women of means.”

“This exhibition matches Sargent’s paintings with Sherman’s photographs, and together they make curious visual statements about trailblazing women who forged new paths for the next generations.”

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review extra: Killer Joe at Star Bar

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 2:00 PM

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This week's issue featured the third theater review from our new critic Bill Wheeler, who for several years has posted reviews of plays both in the Springs and up north on his blog Theater Colorado.

For the Indy, Wheeler reviewed TheatreWorks' The Liar, but since we can't fit every play into the paper's schedule, hit up Theater Colorado. For instance, Wheeler caught the closing performance of Star Bar's Killer Joe.

He had this to say:
Star Bar takes on Killer Joe with a bold enthusiasm. The challenges for a small company are considerable; this is a script that will appeal to a limited audience. The set and props are substantial, the special effects, including spilling blood onstage are critical to a successful performance. Star Bar blows right by these challenges, bringing Letts’ script to life with a brash, raw, nonstop energy.
Find the rest of the review here, and keep an eye out for more reviews (Wheeler just posted his critique of A Man of No Importance playing at the Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities today) on his site.

Bonus: Wheeler includes pre-/post-show dining recommendations with each review.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Coming to TheatreWorks: Olympia Dukakis, and the 2015-2016 season

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2015 at 10:52 AM

Happy anniversary to TheatreWorks as it celebrates its 40th year in business. For the 2015-2016 season, viewers can look forward to a number of widely known productions, each accompanied by free Prologue Lectures on designated nights (held in partnership with UCCS' Department of Visual and Performing Arts, the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences and the Department of Humanities).

Here they are in chronological order:

Private Lives - COURTESY THEATREWORKS
  • Courtesy TheatreWorks
  • Private Lives
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, July 30 through Aug. 22

As with every season, TheatreWorks kicks off with a Shakespeare production at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site. With the hilarious mix-up between unintentional lovers and the unforgettable fairy Puck, it’s no surprise that so many people love this play. Artistic director and Shakespeare scholar Tina Packer returns to the Springs to speak with Jon Jory Aug. 3.

Private Lives, Sept. 10-27

Written in 1930 by Noël Coward, Private Lives has come under much heated debate. Private Lives is about a divorced couple that each recently re-married. To their misfortune, while each goes away with a new spouse, they end up honeymooning at the same place, right next to each other, which results in many forced interactions. John Lahr of The New Yorker will be there to offer some of his thoughts Sept. 20.

Ghosts, Oct. 22 through Nov. 8

This play by Henrik Ibsen was considered scandalous in its day. The thriller, set amid Victorian society, tells the story of a young man with a dark history that could mean the end for him and his loved ones. He is to receive the fortune of his deceased father but things are not what they seem, and his mother bears secrets of her own. With Kevin Landis, UCCS theater professor speaking Oct. 25.

Born Yesterday - COURTESY THEATREWORKS
  • Courtesy TheatreWorks
  • Born Yesterday
Born Yesterday, Dec. 3-24

This comedy is a tale of what appears to be just another ditzy girl being dragged along by her boyfriend to a new place but there is far more at work here. Billie may start out by just getting in the way of her other half’s work due to her own obliviousness but a journalist helps her start to see Brock in a new way. Instead of a Prologue lecture, TW will hold a "Theatre of Politics" roundtable discussion about the "intersection of theatre and politics," Dec. 6.

Satchmo at the Waldorf, Feb. 18 through March 6, 2016

Louis Armstrong, one of the world’s most celebrated musicians, is immortalized by this work. And who better to keep his story alive than such a major-hit actor like John Douglas Thompson? It takes talent to portray talent. This production will feature Thompson both as a performer and a Prologue Lecture speaker as he discusses perspective on all things pertaining to “Satchmo” Feb. 21.

The Girl of the Golden West, April 28- May 15, 2016

A wild western story, unique in that it started out as a play and later became both an opera and a novel, The Girl of the Golden West has been around for over a century. As such it has received an array of both positive and negative reactions. Learn more about it with speakers soprano Martile Rowland of Opera Theatre of the Rockies and TW artistic director Murray Ross May 1.

Satchmo at the Waldorf - COURTESY THEATREWORKS
  • Courtesy TheatreWorks
  • Satchmo at the Waldorf
Archangels Don’t Play Pinball, March 31 through April 10, 2016

This far-fetched adventure played out in two acts was written by Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo. After a marriage that is not what it seems, “Lofty," the protagonist, must jump through hoops so he can acquire his military benefits. The only problem? He must pretend to be a dog to get what he wants. After people bring him to a kennel, a circus owner purchases him. A UCCS student production. With Jim Jackson and Birgitta DePree of the Millibo Art Theatre speaking April 3.

Expect two bonus Prologue speakers coming this fall (dates TBA): Annie Baker, an actress and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (The Flick) and movie star Olympia Dukakis. Winner of multiple awards, Dukakis will offer an opportunity to take a never-before-available master class, and will also tell people about her time spent in both theatre and film.


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Reefer Madness, 4000 Miles and other notes on the FAC's 2014-2015 season announcement

Posted By on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 3:28 PM

SaGaJi Theatre - COLORADO SPRINGS FINE ARTS CENTER
  • Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
  • SaGaJi Theatre

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
 artistic director Scott RC Levy was greeted with enthusiastic applause as he stepped onstage of the SaGaJi Theatre promptly at 5:30 on Tuesday. A projection screen to his right, Levy was there to announce and present the lineup of productions scheduled for the FAC beginning in October and running through June, 2015.

Levy’s eclectic plans for the season assure that many new faces will be setting foot at 30 W. Dale Street, and bringing their friends.

It may be for Dracula, Denver native Steven Dietz’s successful adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel, opening October 9. Whatever their imbibing (or inhaling) preferences might be, patrons will savor the Count’s now famous line “I don’t drink … wine,” while bats, rats, and wooden stakes abound from the prop department. Levy’s matchless eye for actors is sure to land a top-notch performer in the title role, and his “sensual, suspenseful, and bloody” approach pay off in grisly Halloween style. A howling, shrieking, scarefest for all “not-to-be-missed,” Levy darkly warns.

And don’t be surprised to see those same new faces turn right around in December and return for Mary Poppins, a Broadway musical hit, bringing their own kids (or grandkids) in tow. What middle class American 9-year-old of the ’60s did not have “Supercalifragil..,” or whatever it is, drummed into his or her budding noggin by an uncle or in-law zealot of the movie? Again, Levy will secure the talents of a much more appealing tutor as Mary, and surround her lavishly with music, sets, and seasoned performers. It runs from Dec. 11 through Jan. 4, the first in the FAC’s affordable Family Package of four shows. A more optimistic launch to 2015 can hardly be imagined.

But it’s Reefer Madness, the “raucous musical comedy” opening Feb. 12 that is sure to breach the stony façade on Dale Street with hipsters young and old. A timely masterstroke by Levy, it’s a show based on a 1936 film, intended at that time as a frightening omen against the alleged demoralization and death caused by pot-smoking. It’s a premise and message we can all laugh at now, and do, as “clean-cut kids fall prey to marijuana” and degenerate into “madness.” (As if the Depression Era economy weren’t frightening enough.)

Amy Herzog’s 2012 award-winning 4000 Miles then takes the stage March 26, as a 21-year old with an ecological passion rides cross-country to Manhattan, reuniting with his 91-year-old grandmother. A week after opening in New York, it was nearly impossible to obtain tickets to 4000 Miles at either its off-Broadway or Lincoln Center locations. Reviews unanimously praised the play for its sensitivity and insight. Look for and expect first-rate design courtesy resident designer Christopher Sheley.

Guys and Dolls wraps up 2015 on the mainstage, a musical most people already know at least one of the songs from, whether or not they’ve ever seen the show. If not, now is their chance to make up the loss, but advance ticket reservations would be advisable. It’s also on the Family ticket plan and likely to sell out.

Second Stage productions, those taking place in the smaller 108-seat Music Room upstairs, also show promise and were met with enthusiasm by the crowd at Levy’s presentation.

Nora and Delia Ephron’s long-running off-Broadway hit Love, Loss & What I Wore, opening Sept. 18 calls for an all-female cast of five to reflect on experiences from their fashion choices. Praised as “wise and witty” by Variety, the show is a series of monologues by women ranging from Chicago gang members to cancer patients. “Any American woman under 40 who says she’s never dressed like Madonna is either lying or Amish,” declares one. “Never wear a red jacket,” avows a second. “It makes you look, on some level, like you work for an airline.”

Another in the Family Package of four follows E.B White’s classic children’s tale Stuart Little, opening Oct. 23, with area favorite WYNOT Radio Theatre making its annual visit in December, the 11th through the 28th, “the finest old-time radio troupe around.”

Molly Shannon’s (of Saturday Night Live) children’s book Tilly the Trickster in a “high-spirited musical adaptation” appears next, from March 20-30, making way in June for another annual event, the Rough Writers New Play Festival, June 4 -14, a series of staged readings showcasing original short and long plays with a theme to be announced in the spring.

Affordability makes tickets to the FAC even more appealing, as some of the best seats in the house in 2014-15 can be purchased for only $20 dollars. A new pricing format divides the SaGaJi into premium, select, and standard seating areas, allowing first time subscribers in premium seats to make out like bandits at a mere $130(!) for all five mainstage shows. A flex pass plan is ideal for those with unpredictable time and date schedules, making for excellent holiday or birthday gifts, too. If you just can’t make the show, finding someone to go for you instead will be easy, each show like the season itself offering “something for everyone.”

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: Six Women New Play Festival at the MAT

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 11:11 AM

"Feng Shui Fever" - DAVID BALL
  • David Ball
  • "Feng Shui Fever"
“Up, Down, and Sideways” is the thematic banner and basis of selection for the Eighth Annual Six Women Playwriting Festival now onstage at the Millibo Art Theatre. Sounds like a spurious and slapdash way of opening the field to ambitious and accomplished women playwrights, but it works for MAT producers Birgitta De Pree and Jim Jackson marvelously.

Each of the six plays chosen — after intense committee review, staged readings, and evaluation — sends its characters in one of those directions, sometimes mystically, but with practiced and confident artistry nonetheless. They are the handiwork of intelligent and deserving women writers, nationally canvassed and selected. They benefit from competent casting, performances, and direction at the MAT. In fairness, however, three of the six are much harder-hitting and thought-provoking than recognized or presented, and a kind of weightlessness pervades the evening that welcomes the audience, but at the same time distances or ill-prepares them for the more serious and probing playwrights on hand.

Comedies bookend the series, and if technical theater is a measure of appreciation at MAT, the opening and closing pieces receive greater attention than their dramatic intermediaries. Something, however minimally, can and should be done to correct these oversights in lighting and set design for the other works presented. Creative and revealing opportunities are missed and a recital rather than a production atmosphere prevails.

Feng Shui Fever, a 20-minute romp by Denver’s Nicolette Vajtay leads off, a near farcical jolt that would satisfy any aficionado of Christopher Durang’s or Neil Simon’s plays. In it a distraught writer (Elizabeth Kahn) faces down her own anonymity with a frenzied search for “chi” and other New Age solutions to realign herself with the universe and facilitate a career and personal rebirth. Happily, and in ways only found in romantic comedy, it works.

Zanne Hall of Queens, New York ends the festivities with Ethereal Killer. Here a mystery writer forms a literary pact with a homicidal librarian to give her tales authentic first-hand source material. Kyle Urban and Miriam Roth Ballard ably capture the hysteria of the two urbanites looking for anything that works in a land of fame and fortune. They want to kill each other one moment and embrace each other the next. With Hall, director LeAnne Carrouth gives their accidental meeting and discovered mutual interest a strange, psychotic plausibility.

But it’s the plays in between that best show the festival’s strength and determination to “awaken new ideas” in the audience, and nurture women playwrights. An exceptional quality the plays share is how well-written and sympathetically men or male characters are represented. In two of the plays, married or romantically attached couples confess to sincerely “liking” each other. No racial, ethnic, or lesbian/gay themes are explored, attempted, or preached, either. Some kind of leveling is definitely going on here with America’s best women playwrights, though that is not their purpose or point.

Out From Under with Mary by Ohio’s Chris Shaw Swanson is a “sideways” entry, demonstrating that lateral movement can be just as absorbing to witness as upward or downward mobility. Here two women (Sallie Walker and Jessica Weaver) contemplate their lives while waiting in a methadone rehab clinic, though neither are there for treatment. The elder — a snarly, homeless combination of King Lear and Granny Clampitt of The Beverly Hillbillies — reflects on a life spent in selfless devotion to others. Her youthful counterpart looks ahead to a future we sense will run parallel to the outcast’s, however strenuously she avoids it. This feeling of inevitability comes through all the more potently because Swanson keeps it quietly below the surface. For instance, telling thunderstorms rage outside the clinic, which acts as a momentary oasis of care and healing from impending calamity.

"I Know What I Saw" - DAVID BALL
  • David Ball
  • "I Know What I Saw"
A similar kind of bonding and resonance is sought by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich in A Faint Taste of Cat Food and Sour Milk though strained and less convincing. A young chemotherapy patient named Adam (Indy designer Matt Radcliffe) nears the limit of his endurance but sees his way through with the help of his angelic girlfriend Lisa (Lauren Anne Smith) waiting in the lobby. By telepathy and outspoken longing they share and lessen the nightmarish experience of Adam’s treatment. Yet Blumenthal-Ehrlich of Massachusetts seems indecisive as to Lisa’s mortal or spiritual status and we are left unsure of where they stand when the procedure is over. Radcliffe as Adam proves again that he can handle and spellbind with the most difficult acting assignments.

The third installment packing a punch is D.L. Siegel’s I Know What I Saw. Siegel is another New York City native, and her play illustrates her deep familiarity with that locale. A man takes his own life by hurling himself before a speeding subway train, and his nearby grandson (Omid Dastan Harrison) charges a young bystander (Emily Boresow) with insufficiency in her attempt to save the man’s life. The two never confront each other, what we see are two interwoven and soul-searching confessions instead. This leads to a memorable tracking by Siegel of the causes for the man’s choice of action, which seem, given his circumstances, justifiable. However, Siegel could profit from paring down excessive detail given to the man’s family relationships.

Tracy Hunziker and Lynne Hastings are pleasurable to watch as Alice (of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland) and an interposing real estate agent in Deidre Gilbert’s Mallets Aforethought. In this Colorado Springs writer's play, the two are discussing the Rabbit Hole, which sounds compelling and charming, but unless you are in on the Carroll original, it’s hard to go join them. We're not really sure what the two characters want from each other, but again, a little lighting work, say a follow spot, which is simple, would've helped.

What does Six Women reveal about women playwrights? The event begs the question. That they are underrepresented as De Pree and Jackson contend is undeniable, at least where these artists are concerned. In fact, the plays at MAT are far more satisfying than the politicized frontal attacks of better-known women writers. With slightly better investment in production and design elements, they will get where they need and should go.

Eighth Annual Six Women Playwriting Festival, April 16, 17-19, 24-27; 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees, 2 p.m. Millibo Art Theatre,1626 S. Tejon St. Tickets: $20, $15 on Thursdays; for more, call 465-6321 or visit sixwomenplayfestival.com.
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Review: Agnes of God at the Fine Arts Center

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Audiences may leave John Pielmeier’s Agnes of God (1983) with a surer sense of where they stand in the polemical tug of war between science and religion. How the play might have contributed to this certainty, however, is impossible to defend or grasp.

Pielmeier must be called to account for having created three characters loaded with contrast and potency, but arranging their motivations, philosophies, and utterances so haphazardly as to shoot his own dramatic hull full of holes. The ship sinks slowly, and inevitably, in Agnes of God, but not without impressive displays of rhetoric, compassion, and emotive force.

Nonetheless, Scott RC Levy’s production at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center gives the play — a long-running hit on Broadway and a notable film — every possible chance, and is well worth seeing. Agnes of God does have a certain forward motion going for it, even when that motion seems off the trail to pursuing the central facts or truth of the case.

At issue is the sanity of a novice nun, Agnes (Carmen Vreeman), who has murdered her newborn with its own umbilical cord and deposited the corpse in a wastebasket. She claims to have no recollection of the event (yet has gone to great lengths to conceal her pregnancy). Court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Martha Livingstone (Jane Fromme) is enlisted to conduct a series of examinations for evidence that will lead the novitiate either to the penitentiary or an asylum, presumably for life. A guardian Mother Superior named Miriam Ruth (Kathy Paradise) puts up a formidable defense against either, or any strictly legal course of action, based on the religious and psychological factors of the case. Her choice is for the offending young mother to remain in the convent, and therefore exempt from punishment as a criminal. Apparently, the psychiatrist has it within her power to influence the court in this direction.
JEFF KEARNEY
  • Jeff Kearney
All three women come equipped with ripe admixtures of dogma, skepticism, faith, and madness to get things rolling and sustain dramatic tension. But Pielmeier’s strategy is to let the doctor and the guardian Mother slug it out to a draw — and that’s it. He consigns us to an erratic see-sawing between the two poles, and ultimately, Agnes is left to resolve the situation for herself, if that is what Pielmeier’s fate for her is meant to imply. What appear at first to be sound theoretical and spiritual approaches disintegrate into bluster and snits by the two ladies with no consistency, balance, or targeted plotting by Pielmeier. Nothing fuses into a reasonable determination of cause and effect, from either a religious or a psychoanalytic perspective; we get only a disharmony of details to which Pielmeier assigns equal weight, though they are compelling details.

It’s a maxim in theater that “all scenes are chase scenes,” and Levy directs the action accordingly, seeing us through wordy text with a discerning eye for emphasis and restraint. Dr. Livingstone is herself an apostate from the church, and her enlightened disbeliefs are persuasively shaken by Agnes as the examinations proceed. Mother Miriam proves to be implicated and attached to Agnes in ways that may seem contrived, but that still add momentum because they are put to such good use on stage.

With Levy’s help, Pielmeier achieves a convincing outcome, a symmetry in the two women, in presenting their modified self-knowledge. One must pick and choose, however, among the legal and psychological tokens he has scattered about to decide which are motivating and which are not. And this running task of selecting and organizing details in Agnes of God gets a little tiresome, and distracting. It’s the playwright’s job to do that, not ours.

Moreover, as a discipline we learn way less about psychology in Agnes of God than we do of theology, and the play is severely lop-sided in this way with avoidance. There’s a hidden advocacy going on here by Pielmeier on behalf of beliefs and practices of the church that are at best questionable, and to many, blatantly superstitious. We are expected to swallow them whole, and accept without question as legitimate and potentially exonerating of Agnes as any secular definitions of sanity, crime, or pathology might be. As a result, what we are meant not to question in Agnes of God invades and disturbs the things that we are, as if entering a side door like an unwanted guest.

Agnes also remains an enigma. There’s no question that the harm she suffered as a child dictates her behavior and prescribes her outcome. It does not, on the other hand — nor does the halo of supernatural attributes Pielmeier and her guardian Mother attach to her — dismiss the question of her criminality. The so-called “innocence” Mother Miriam keeps insisting on, in both Agnes’ character and her actions, is betrayed by Agnes’ ability to shift from reason to madness with expediency when it suits her. Her interrogations with Dr. Livingstone reveal this repeatedly.

Still, Levy’s production at the FAC is cause to celebrate rather than resist Agnes of God. For one, and chiefly, better acting can’t be found anywhere. If Pielmeier is indecisive or vague in his priorities, Fromme, Paradise and Vreeman certainly aren’t, and they play to the fullest without giving in to Pielmeier’s tendency to sensationalize. Director Levy and set designer Christopher Sheley can share credit for an appealing use of the spacious mainstage, Sheley’s set both a dreamscape and an arena somewhere, like the play, between heaven and earth.

Agnes of God, through April 6; Thursdays through Saturdays 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees 2 p.m. Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St. Tickets:  $15 -$37; for more information, call 634-5583 or visit csfineartscenter.org.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review: Venus in Fur by TheatreWorks

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 11:31 AM

ISAIAH DOWNING
  • Isaiah Downing
That Thomas Novachek and Vanda Jordan don’t quite know what they’re getting themselves into when auditioning Vanda for Thomas’s adaptation of Venus in Fur is not to slight them, nor their gifted creator, playwright David Ives.

How could the mischief they create for each other ever be expected, or for that matter, avoided? The script they read from will transform their drab rehearsal room irresistibly into an enchanted forest of 19th-century desire and taboo. Its modus operandi is masochism, that controlled application of pain and medievalism involving extreme role reversals, bondage, and heightened sexual dominance.

As if following forbidden breadcrumbs, Thomas and Vanda scamper headlong into one world while leaving behind another, thinking they have everything in perspective, in focus, and under control. They learn otherwise.

“It’s porn!” Vanda chirps merrily of their source, a famous novel by Leopold Sacher-Masoch (1869). “No, it’s world literature!” Thomas passionately counters and, as we discover, they are both right.

Masochism is the gentler side of the sadomasochism equation and not the sometimes monstrous activity pioneered, so to speak, by the 18th-century French aristocrat and libertine, the Marquis de Sade. This distinction should be kept clearly in mind. In Venus in Fur, sharply directed by Murray Ross, there is none of the bloodletting, gouging, or merciless torment that landed Sade in various French prisons, and finally an asylum. (For those details, see the late Maurice Lever’s wonderful Sade: A Biography).

Instead we are taken down a seductive path by Ives toward alarming and often wise revelations about power, equality, and of all things in a sex-comedy, civil society. Ives' casual way of having Thomas and Vanda segue out of a 19th-century text and into the now as they pause to reflect or stage a scene exposes many assumptions that afflict and form their own kind of bondage in our time. In Thomas’s case a forthcoming — or rather impending — marriage to his fiancé Stacy has all the snares and piercing discomforts one could find in matrimony to any Victorian snoot of Sacher-Masoch’s era. The puritanism of the past has resurfaced as a PhD in the present in pedigreed, New England Stacy, and Thomas will merely serve as a prop to her whims and games of social show-and-tell, and he knows it. (Vanda makes sure of that).

The play itself, and Thomas’s connection to it, develops as a kind of antidote to this whole Stacy thing, as something he must rid himself of if the lessons he learns in rehearsal are to be taken as seriously in life. A teacher/student configuration rules the masochistic code of conduct as often as a master/slave one does, and Venus in Fur under Ross’s direction shifts from one to the other with spellbinding ease.

In the meantime, as Thomas and Vanda explore Sacher-Masoch’s obsessions, the action onstage prompts many questions that cover a range of significance, largely due to the fine performances by Carley Cornelius as Vanda and Jon Barker as Thomas. It captures and illuminates the mercurial process of acting that we often take for granted, and the level of energy and commitment necessary for making a script come alive.

Vanda is a very good actress, and Cornelius impresses mightily in her ability to show us that. Like her counterpart Barker as Thomas, she is young enough to be adventuresome, yet old enough to tackle or subdue Vanda’s wildest impulses. There isn’t a single false note or moment’s hesitation from Cornelius — deadly in playscript of this kind — to stymie or derail our fascination with Vanda, even though Ives does shuffle a bit in assigning her clear motives. Barker meets her at every turn, and subtly ups the ante when called upon to do so.

(An interesting side note, Ross was no doubt alert to Cornelius’ successful run in Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman in Chicago, a play very similar in its demands to Venus in Fur. As in Dutchman, an attempted return to Eden “can be very dangerous, very destructive,” Ross warns in a program note, and both works play that out.)

There are times in Venus in Fur that you’ll never hear more intuitively sensed and fluid dialog, but the ambiguities Ives fixes to Vanda to create a feeling of mystery and menace tend to backfire in unnecessary confusion. Ross and company do all they can to cover or amend Ives' misuse of these details, and Cornelius’ Dionysian vigor goes far in preserving Vanda’s mystique. But a key ingredient is left out somewhere, and we wait for some gesture or utterance of psychological truth to understand Vanda. It doesn’t come, though Ives supplies her with a plausibly violent crescendo to make up for it.

Still, for all its racy, leather-clad cosmopolitanism, Venus in Fur is an impressionistic work, and seems at times a better play than it is given credit for. There is no underestimating the value of having our less-visible assumptions exposed for intelligent questioning and evaluation. This play proves that our time is not so different from Sacher-Masoch's in crucial ways, though we pretend it isn't, that we are more flexible, democratic and advanced.

And when served such a message so delectably, how can you top that?

Venus in Fur, through April 13. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 7:30 pm; Saturday matinees (March 29th through April 5th and 12th) 2pm; Sundays at 4pm. 527 S. Tejon St. Tickets: $35, free for UCCS students. Reservations advised. For more call 255-3232 or visit theatreworkscs.org.

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