Theater

Thursday, July 25, 2019

TheatreWorks brings free Shakespeare to region’s underserved

Posted By on Thu, Jul 25, 2019 at 4:06 PM

The Free-for-All troupe’s first performance at Remington Park. - COLTON PRATT
  • Colton Pratt
  • The Free-for-All troupe’s first performance at Remington Park.

For the first time in its history, TheatreWorks is bringing Free-for-All Shakespeare to the Pikes Peak region this summer. Now through Aug. 16, Free-for-All, a no-cost traveling troupe, will be performing at three different locations across Colorado Springs.

On July 10, the seven-person troupe traveled from Rockrimmon Boulevard to Fort Carson and eventually to Hillside Community Center to perform The Comedy of Errors three separate times throughout the day.

The 75-minute adaptation is family-friendly and fast-paced, with a small cast that portrays many characters thanks to costume changes, accents and the occasional hand puppet stand-in.

“To me, theaters are a civic institution,” says TheatreWorks artistic director Caitlin Lowans. “We exist to be in service to our community.”

Although the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (to which TheatreWorks is connected) has put on free Shakespearean plays in “the very, very ancient history of TheatreWorks,” according to Lowans, this summer’s traveling program is the first of its kind.

“We already have a natural geographic connection to the folks downtown,” Lowans says. “It was really important that we … connect [with] those who live in the vibrant community of Southeast.”

Although the performances are free to attend, the cast and crew are composed of local professional actors and designers.

Sean Sharif, Alex Wimmerle, Anna Faye Hunter, Rachel Fey, Ambrosia Fees-Armstrong, Julia Greene and Dante Finley make up the cast. Under Lowans’ artistic direction, the actors have each memorized several “tracks,” which include multiple characters. Each performance, the actors switch tracks, trading characters, costumes and stage voices in the process. The actors even smoothly transition from accent-free dialogue to heavy East Coast diction, depending on the character.

Maelia Kalua is the program’s costume designer. Considering the fast pace of the performances, the costumes have to be durable, easy to change and different enough for the audience to recognize when actors trade characters.

Props designer Marie Verdu had to consider the importance of mobility and utility of space throughout the Free-for-All program. Before performances, the cast sets its stage by laying a plain sheet flat on the ground. Then, it sets chairs around the perimeter, creating a theater in the round, reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

The entire set and all the costumes fit into seven small trunks — and even those act as props. During the Fort Carson production, Fey — in character as Dromio of Ephesus — held up a 2-foot-tall painted trunk and loudly announced, “this is a door,” during a brief set change. The whimsical scenery was met with laughter from the audience.

The program is funded by several local sponsors, including the Pikes Peak Library District and the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative.

This is a first-time program that aims to reach out to traditionally-overlooked communities, and Lowans stresses her desire for people to “come as they are” to the performances.
“Sometimes theatre can feel to folks like there is a certain way they have to be,” she says. “But we’re really excited to meet everyone where they’re at … and celebrate them coming out to share something very special with us.”

See below or the TheatreWorks website for the schedule of performances:
• 10 a.m. Saturday, July 27, Imagination Celebration, Citadel Mall: 750 Citadel Drive E.
• 1:30 p.m. Saturday, July 27, Penrose Library: 20 N. Cascade Ave.
• 6 p.m. Saturday, July 27, Deerfield Hills Community Center: 4290 Deerfield Hills Road
• 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., Sunday, July 28, Memorial Park, Manitou Springs: 502 Manitou Ave.
• 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2 Bancroft Park at the Old Colorado City Library: 2408 W. Colorado Ave.
• 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3 at the East Library: 5550 Union Blvd.
• 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16 at the Colorado Springs Senior Center: 1514 N. Hancock Ave.
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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Counterweight Theatre Lab presents intimate look at Mark Rothko in Red

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 10:26 AM

Steve Emily shines as Mark Rothko. - ETHAN EVERHART
  • Ethan Everhart
  • Steve Emily shines as Mark Rothko.

As the lights come up on the stage, actor Steve Emily sits in a rickety wooden chair, staring out over the audience, eyes narrowed in concentration. The first line he speaks is to actor Joe O’Rear, who stands nervously in the doorway: “What do you see?”

This feels an appropriate way to open a play presented by Counterweight Theatre Lab, which never shies away from making its audience think. The works they present consistently delve into deep human truths or traumas, often asking questions that stick with the viewer long after the proverbial curtain falls. Red, a play about famed Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko (you know, the one with the fuzzy colored rectangles), absolutely does the same. It beautifully weaves together philosophy, humor, history and tragedy, but you can’t credit the script alone for its success.

With only two characters bearing the weight of long monologues and conversations on creativity and artistic zeitgeists, Red isn’t the kind of play you might sit down and read for funsies. But Emily as Rothko and O’Rear as his assistant, Ken, put so much emotion and physicality into their lines, the play never once comes across as weighty or self-important — except when it wants to. Rothko was, after all, a weighty and self-important man, which Ken helpfully points out.

At its best — and for the record it is very good — Red makes the audience part of the scene, almost a third character. We become the murals Rothko is painting to decorate a new Four Seasons restaurant — a commission that brings him two years of grief. He stares critically at us, discusses our vulnerability and our meaning. We feel all at once valued and lacking in his eyes. But we aren’t only the paintings. At times, we’re also Ken, who watches this self-destructive painter — a man he admires — lock himself in this dark studio and dismiss the rest of the world.

Ken and Rothko’s interactions could be any interactions between a young creative and the mouthpiece of the generation that came before him. We see Rothko’s irrelevance creeping into the studio, even as he tries to shut it out, and we feel Ken’s frustration.

That is, perhaps, why the second act proves so damn satisfying. Ken isn’t always just Rothko’s dutiful assistant. He has his breaking points; at times he delivers lines so piercing I half expect the bass to drop and Lil John’s “Turn Down For What” to come out of the record player in the corner.

But, through all of the philosophy and tension, it’s funny, too. The moments of humor — expertly delivered by these two talented actors — make this play work.

Red functions best in an intimate setting like The Cellar at the Carter Payne, where the audience can see every tic of expression on Rothko’s face as he contemplates his paintings, or where they can notice the subtle shift’s in Ken’s body language as Rothko lectures him about intellectualism and creativity. In this space, we hear every whisper, and suffer the tension when the characters shout. Sitting in one of those chairs, we really are paintings on the wall, hanging in the studio of a man whose creative energy was always too big to be contained in any box.



Editor's note: An earlier version of this review mistakenly referred to Rothko as an Abstract Impressionist. We regret the error.
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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

TheatreWorks opens its next chapter with a season of unique storytelling

Posted By on Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 2:18 PM

Measure for Measure opens at Rock Ledge Ranch on June 26 - ISAIAH DOWNING
  • Isaiah Downing
  • Measure for Measure opens at Rock Ledge Ranch on June 26

The stories we choose to tell, and how we choose to tell them, say a great deal about not only who we are as individuals, but also as a culture. In putting together UCCS-based TheatreWorks’ 2019-2020 season, artistic director Caitlin Lowans and artistic producer Lynne Hastings approached this theme a little differently.

“There are two different people whose lenses we are telling stories through, and they will not be identical to Murray,” says Hastings, referring Murray Ross, the late and beloved founder of TheatreWorks who passed away in 2017.

“We want to respect and carry on the legacy,” Lowans adds, “but we still have to have our own lens and our own voice, and stories that we tell. And we are two very different people from Murray.”

As they are very different from each other, as well. They are drawn to different kinds of storytelling that have made this upcoming season a grab-bag of diverse and unique styles of theater.

Coming from an acting background, Hastings looks for plays with strong character development — especially in regard to female characters. Lowans, who leans more on a directing background, tends to look for plays that have an element of surrealism and visual excitement. With their preferences and talents combined, the 2019-2020 season is looking damn good.

It begins with Measure for Measure (June 26-July 21), performed for TheatreWorks’ annual Shakespeare at the Ranch production. “[It is] so much more funny than anyone knows, than we even do a good job of telling people about. It's a very funny show. But it's a very funny show about very big, serious stuff,” Lowans says. This big, serious stuff? Power and leadership, gender and sexuality, and plentiful intersecting topics. But it kicks off the storytelling theme of the season in an interesting way.

“When two people go into a room, and one of them has all of the structural power, and they come back out of the room, whose story about what happened will be believed?” Lowans asks.

This theme of power in storytelling provides a through-line for the other works on the docket, peppered with both well-known and more obscure titles.

TheatreWorks’ August show, The Mountaintop (Aug. 22-Sept. 8), is a two-person play about Martin Luther King Jr.’s final hours in the Lorraine Motel, an overnight success after it was first produced in London in 2010. The TheatreWorks show will star Calvin M. Thompson, a TheatreWorks veteran who most recently appeared in the company’s 2018 production of A Raisin in the Sun; plus local powerhouse Marisa Hebert who knocked it out of the park in TheatreWorks’ American Prom.

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Lowans and Hastings say it should prove to be a powerful piece. It was written and originally performed in the Obama era, and its lessons — its stories — take on new meaning under our current administration, facing our culture’s current struggles.

Perhaps the most recognizable title in the lineup is Arcadia (Oct. 10-27), a Tom Stoppard classic. Lowans, who was shocked to see that TheatreWorks had produced very few Stoppard plays over the decades, says: “[Arcadia] deals with this question of history and time. And how the things that happened in the past are never truly knowable in the present, but it has this hopefulness that ideas and will, as they say in the play, ‘be rediscovered and carried through.’”

She has a lot of love for this play, and adds that it has elements of what she and Hastings both look for in a successful piece: roles for incredible female characters, plus an element of magical realism that makes it intriguing to stage. “And sometimes,” Lowans adds, “when I feel kind of nervous about the world and the way it's going, a play that says the great lessons of the past can be rediscovered makes me feel better.”

Of course, though each of these plays contains elements of comedy and elements of drama, the play they have chosen to fill the slot of their usual holiday special promises to be a generally straightforward rollicking adventure. Around the World in 80 Days (Dec. 5-22), adapted from the Jules Verne novel by the Lookingglass Theatre Company out of Chicago, calls for a small cast to play a world’s worth of roles. “Very physical, very madcap, a lot of narration. … It's the idea that we can listen to a story, and that many people can tell it. So the cast of Around the World in 80 Days is not going to look like the cast that's on the page of the novel, and that's part of the point.”

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Gloria
(Jan. 30-Feb. 16) is set up to shock and awe local theatergoers. Both Hastings and Lowans say that this modern satire, set in your average American office space, took them entirely by surprise when they first encountered it. At turns hilarious, heartfelt and shocking, Gloria follows a group of writers struck by an office tragedy, each trying to take ownership of the story in their own way. Hastings emphasizes that, from a character perspective, Gloria proves particularly interesting because none of the characters are necessarily “good people.” This isn’t a play with a moral center, but rather a group of very human, very flawed individuals dealing with tragedy differently — and maybe not always in the best ways.

March of 2020 will bring another two-man show to the TheatreWorks stage, though it takes a village behind the scenes. An Iliad (March 12-29) tells the story of Homer’s Iliad the way it would have been told in ages past. The only two characters: the poet and the muse. “They, plus the audience's imagination, are creating all the voices, deepening the story. In the many millennia since [Homer], we have gotten away from that as a mode of storytelling. And now this play brings it back.”

The written play doesn’t come with its own music, but accompaniment is key, so TheatreWorks has enlisted UCCS music faculty power couple Jane Chan, a cellist who will play the muse, and Anthony Tan, her husband and an accomplished composer, to compose music specifically for this production.

You might say that Lowans, who will be directing the final production of the season, is passionate about this play. She says this one, titled Passion Play (April 23-May 10), will tie together the themes of the season and give audiences a lot to think about. Passion Play meets three different communities at three different points in time: Elizabethan England, 1930s Germany and South Dakota during the Vietnam War. Each community is putting on a production of the Passion of Christ, and the same actors play the same roles in every version.

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Hastings says the tension of the play falls on this question: “What happens when you have to tell the same story year after year after year? Regardless of who you are as a person?”

Lowans adds: “It has a great moral questions and ethical questions about like, if you do break out of those societal expectations, if you do move away from that role you've been assigned, and have to make your own choices, how do you know you'll make the right one?”

As always, TheatreWorks plans to enrich their season with town hall talks and prologues — community discussions that help deepen understanding of the works or the cultural context in which the works were produced. Though they have not yet solidified the entire prologue schedule, two have been announced: Curating The Political Divide and a panel discussion about updating controversial works with playwright David Henry Hwang.

They also aim to make their shows more accessible by hopefully opening up dress rehearsals for folks who might not otherwise be able to attend, or reaching out to local organizations and nonprofits like REACH Pikes Peak. Perhaps most exciting: They will be touring Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors throughout town this summer, performing in libraries and community centers for free.

So while Hastings and Lowans may be different from Murray Ross, and though the direction in which they take TheatreWorks’ upcoming season will be of their own choosing and making, they uphold the legacy of TheatreWorks: To present great theater, to educate the community, and to open doors for those who may not always have felt they had a place in an audience or onstage.

Michelle Winchell, UCCS Presents’ marketing and media relations manager, says: “Lynne [Hastings] has been a part of this community for such a long time, and then Caitlin [Lowans] has invested immense energy in getting to know people since she got here, and so it feels like we're, you know, we're asking people to come on this journey with us.”

A journey into the next chapter of TheatreWorks’ ever-evolving story.
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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Fine Arts Center lead actor literally breaks a leg, but the show must go on

Posted By on Tue, Jun 4, 2019 at 2:14 PM

JEFF KEARNEY FOR FINE ARTS CENTER THEATRE COMPANY
  • Jeff Kearney for Fine Arts Center Theatre Company

A tightwire, a prop and set piece for the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College's current production of the musical Barnum, stretches across the center's stage, measuring 3 feet high and about 20 feet across, with mats below in case of any unfortunate falls. Toward the end of act one, it functions as a bridge for lead actor Gil Brady, who has been training with tightwire since he was cast in the role of P.T. Barnum months ago — some training in his home of New York City, and some with local clown and Millibo Art Theatre director Jim Jackson.

Brady had taken to it like a duck to water, but on May 23, the night of Barnum's final dress rehearsal, he faltered. Though he dismounted the tightwire twice without incident, the third time proved unlucky, and he fell.

“Quite frankly, I didn't know that he had done any damage,” says the FAC’s director of performing arts Scott RC Levy. “And I had said, you know, ‘Let's try that again tomorrow. Why don't you just go to the end of the tightwire and finish the song.’ And he did it, and we didn't know anything was wrong.”

Brady completed the rest of the dress rehearsal from a chair, but a trip to the emergency room later confirmed he had fractured his leg. Considering the role requires both a great deal of dancing and the aforementioned tightwire scene, this posed problems for the FAC’s theater company.

No one would have blamed Brady if he had called it quits, nor the theater company if they had postponed the opening of the show. But the team behind Barnum pulled together some creative solutions — and quickly.

“After a very sleepless night that night, and being in communication with the rest of my creative team,” Levy says, “I'd say probably at noon on Thursday [the day after the dress rehearsal], we had developed sort of a plan A-through-H scenario.”

They spent three hours that afternoon running through the play once more, with Nathan Halvorson, associate director of performing arts and show choreographer, performing the dance sequences; and ensemble member Mark Alpert taking to the tightwire.

And, hey, it actually worked out pretty well. They've been performing with that configuration since May 24. Meanwhile, Brady continues to sing and act in his role — in a period-appropriate wheelchair no less. If you're wondering where they got a period-appropriate wheelchair with less than 24-hours notice: The FAC just so happened to have such a prop in storage.

“Oh, yeah, well, the FDR wheelchair for Annie comes in handy for all sorts of things,” Levy says with a chuckle.

But does this new configuration affect the play at all? Levy says yes, but in unexpectedly positive ways.

“I think that it adds another layer to the story,” he says. “You know, in many ways in Barnum, it's Barnum telling the story of his life, almost like a memory piece. And so him now being on the outside of some of the scenes and sort of watching this other actor portraying him actually makes the show take on a different level. … Some people have even reported to me that, had they not known that what was going on, they would have thought this is how Barnum is supposed to be.”

Maybe these circumstances can’t be considered a “happy accident,” but a mix of ingenuity and dedication has cushioned the blow. The FAC, Brady and Barnum have pulled off the theatrical equivalent of a death-defying tightwire act.

Barnum runs Wednesdays through Sundays, through June 16. Details below.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Anniversary exhibits showcase dynamic history of Fine Arts Center

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 3:26 PM

Anniversaries can mean different things — joy, remembrance, even sorrow. For the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, their year-long 100th anniversary celebration seeks to honor the rich cultural history of the region, and the people and events that shaped its growth from the Broadmoor Art Academy in 1919 to the FAC in 1936, and beyond.


For curator of modern and contemporary art, Joy Armstrong, this means crafting a series of four museum exhibits that tell a story of always-evolving artistic ideals across a century.

O Beautiful! Shifting Landscapes of the Pikes Peak Region follows a timeline from around 1870-1970, examining the earliest artists in the region, why they came and how their artistic ideals started to coalesce. In those early years, tracing the artists is fairly equivalent to tracing the history of the academy and FAC. They were founding personalities, board members and key figures in the transition from the academy to FAC, helping develop the region’s art identity.
Another component of the exhibit is “shifting perspectives,” sidebars that provoke attendees to be critical of historical truth, reexamine the art from our modern perspective and explore their own alternative viewpoints.

The second exhibit opening of the year, Scenes from Life: Drawings by Bernard Arnest, is a series of 51 large drawings that showcase his reactions to a world he decided was essentially tragic.

“[Scenes] is really a demonstration of his thoughtfulness as an artist,” Armstrong says. “They are difficult works to be with — he was responding to the global events of the '70s — but they feel contemporary.”

Arnest served as both the head of the FAC Art School (which became the Colorado College Art Department) and professor of art at Colorado College.

Bernard Arnest instructs a class, circa 1950-60s. - COURTESY OF THE COLORADO COLLEGE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
  • Courtesy of the Colorado College Special Collections
  • Bernard Arnest instructs a class, circa 1950-60s.

Notes from the Musick Collection will open Aug. 3. Archie Musick was a student at the academy, and had relationships with many of the founding characters. He even published a book — Musick Medley: Intimate Memories of a Rocky Mountain Art Colony, which looks at his experiences and local contemporaries in an entertaining tabloid format.

In concert with his daughter Pat, the exhibit will focus on the family collection Archie accumulated through the years, which includes art but also historical FAC artifacts, including diaries, announcements and postcards.

The Broadmoor Art Academy and Its Legacy, 1919-1970 will premiere in the middle of Arts Month this October, focusing on how the artists that studied and worked in the area influenced each other, and how that influence spread throughout the country and across time. It’ll include private and public works, with pieces from the Smithsonian and Denver Art Museum.

“This will really demonstrate the influence of the academy,” Armstrong says. “It’ll look at the art artists brought with them to the region and what they learned and experienced while they were here, and what they did when they moved on. There was a really powerful impact on the development of American art identity.”

A class of the Broadmoor Art Academy out and about. - LAURA GILPIN, ©AMON CARTER MUSEUM, COURTESY OF THE FINE ARTS CENTER
  • Laura Gilpin, ©Amon Carter Museum, Courtesy of the Fine Arts Center
  • A class of the Broadmoor Art Academy out and about.

This exhibit will also explore how artistic approaches that are now widely accepted may have been reviled and misunderstood in their time.

“We can look to the past to come to terms with the styles,” Armstrong says. “There is this continuity in the continuum of art history — if we can understand where things come from, then hopefully we can at least appreciate them.”

Part of Armstrong’s work is to look forward, to where she sees the FAC in the future, both through these exhibits and beyond.


“We are product of what has come before. [These shows] allow us an opportunity to see what they are as part of the era gone by, though they may be offensive or shocking now. We don’t condone them, but we can dig into them and attempt to understand where they come from and where they’ve gone,” Armstrong says.

One of the growing challenges for cultural institutions Armstrong sees is growing competition for time, attention and dollars.

“We can no longer expect that when we do something we feel is important, that people will come to us,” Armstrong says. “We have to ask questions of ourselves and be open to criticism.”

The Fine Arts Center lobby in the 1930s. - COURTESY OF THE COLORADO COLLEGE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
  • Courtesy of the Colorado College Special Collections
  • The Fine Arts Center lobby in the 1930s.

Beyond preserving the existing collection and remembering their core values, Armstrong hopes the FAC seeks out new opportunities — to intentionally reach new audiences and serve the whole community, take risks with challenging and provocative work, and utilize technology to evolve the role of the museum. And, fight the notion that a museum is full of dusty objects that you possibly can’t relate to. It is a place for learning, connecting, experiencing and growing.

“There are different ways to view what a museum does. It’s a shift from museum as temple, playground of the elite, and exclusive to museum as classroom, community center,” she says.

“I’ll be disappointed if, in 100 years, we are what we are today.”

But why, now, come to the FAC?

“People from any background can develop a relationship with something that will leave an impact," Armstrong says. "You won’t like everything, but there will be something you fall in love with.”

Exhibit Schedule
Through 2019 | O Beautiful! Shifting Landscapes of the Pikes Peak Region
Through June 9 | Scenes from Life: Drawings by Bernard Arnest
Opening Aug. 3 | Notes from the Musick Collection
Opening Oct. 12 | The Broadmoor Art Academy and Its Legacy, 1919-1970

Public Open House & Museum Free Day - 100th Anniversary Kick-Off Event
Saturday, January 26

  • Guided tours of featured exhibitions O Beautiful! Shifting Landscapes of the Pikes Peak Region and Scenes of Everyday Life: Drawings by Bernard Arnest at 12 and 12:30 p.m.
  • One-act play reading of the first play performed by the Academy Players in 1919, Suppressed Desires, in the galleries at 1 and 3 p.m.
  • Hands-on art activities and demonstrations 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Complimentary hot beverages and sweet treats 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Taste open for lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Jonathan Toman serves as the Peak Radar Manager for the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. PeakRadar.com connects you to over 4,500 local events, 450 creative groups, & 350 artists — all in one beautiful website for the Pikes Peak region. Jonathan can be reached at jonathan@culturaloffice.org.

To sign up for the weekly Peak Radar Picks email, which includes 8-10 great local events, click here.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

What do we do when we don’t know what to do next? PIE, by Theater Grottesco

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2018 at 10:00 AM

PIE by Theater Grottesco, Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2, 2 p.m., Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, 30 W. Dale St., $27-$30, csfineartscenter.org. - COURTESY THEATER GROTTESCO
  • Courtesy Theater Grottesco
  • PIE by Theater Grottesco, Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2, 2 p.m., Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, 30 W. Dale St., $27-$30, csfineartscenter.org.
Astronomer Carl Sagan once famously said: “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” This single quote has inspired a thoroughly expansive production by Theater Grottesco, which will be touring to the Fine Arts Center this weekend only. PIE endeavors to answer the question of what we do when we don’t know what to do next. In this case, “we” means all of us, humanity, represented by four “armchair experts” who show up to speak on a panel only to realize the moderator isn’t there. Chaos ensues, naturally, and the actors break the bounds of time, space and nature to explore intrinsic questions of our existence. Theater Grottesco, originally founded in Paris but now based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, draws on European traditions of clowning, meaning they tackle this ambitious subject matter with a healthy dose of physical comedy and absurdity. While non-traditional, it promises to be as evocative as it is hilarious.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Colorado Springs Conservatory produces a revised Jack: A Moral Musical Tale

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 1:55 PM

SCREENCAP FROM TRAILER; CREDIT COLORADO SPRINGS CONSERVATORY
  • Screencap from trailer; credit Colorado Springs Conservatory
In June of 2017, the Colorado Springs Conservatory, a local performance art school, debuted Jack: A Moral Musical Tale. Meant to convey an anti-bullying message, the musical followed a young bully into a dream sequence in which he met Jacks from different fairytales and folklore who taught him that nothing good comes from remorselessly bullying others. By invitation, we went to see the show, and came away with some issues in the way the musical portrayed minority characters (the very people most at-risk for bullying) and the way its messages fell flat, or even contradicted themselves.

At the time, Conservatory CEO Linda Weise said: “It would be amazing to have a piece that was created and shaped by feedback here in our community that could have national and international relevance.”

Now, the Conservatory has indeed used audience feedback to revamp the story and musical score, with help from Conservatory alumni Josh Franklin, a Broadway performer who typically makes his home in New York City. “I like to give back,” Franklin says, “so I come back and teach and direct and write. It’s good for them; it’s good for me. This show in particular has been so much work, but so much fun, and it’s just a beautiful story.”

Since joining the Conservatory creative team on this project in November, Franklin, who has also directed this production, says he made some significant changes to the script. For one, he gave Jack more understandable motivation, hoping to illustrate that issues with bullying largely start at home with the family.

He also altered the tone of many of Jack’s dream sequences. “It was a great concept and a fun story,” he says, “but a lot of the dream sequences seemed to be just other Jacks from the history of literature picking on Jack, and I wanted to examine less of a nightmare and more of a dream in which people teach him positive lessons.”

Among these characters, Franklin introduced “Jack of All Trades,” to show Jack a different kind of future than the one he’s building for himself by bullying others. Jack of All Trades is portrayed by Brian Sears, one of three Broadway performers who Franklin invited to take part in this production. The other two are Moya Angela and Abbie Mueller. All three are currently active on Broadway, and have performed with Franklin in the past.

The Conservatory has also invited four dancers from the Colorado Ballet Society, plus Thomas Wilson of the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, to collaborate on the performance.

While Franklin has made many changes to the original script, he says it is still recognizable as Jack: “It’s a different angle. Definitely the same story, but a different way of telling it.”

The end of the show, which caused us particular concern in its original inception, has been “completely reconstructed,” according to Franklin. He says that the show has grown to encompass not just anti-bullying messages, but also messages of suicide prevention, and messages for adults who need to intervene when they encounter troubled children.

In spite of all this, Franklin insists that the show is mostly comedic, and the serious messages “sneak up on you,” which is a good sign for a family production. While we have yet to see the revised show, we find encouragement in Franklin’s enthusiasm for its changes.

In a press release, CEO Linda Weise said: “I am thrilled with what Josh [Franklin] has done to the original piece. His incredible songwriting abilities have really elevated the score and flow of the story… not to mention that I am simply humbled to work alongside him in bringing this story to life yet again, even better and with more great characters.”

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

TheatreWorks, Fine Arts Center clean up in 2018 Henry Award nominations

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2018 at 3:19 PM

The FAC's recent production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels earned 11 nominations. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS FINE ARTS CENTER AT COLORADO COLLEGE
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
  • The FAC's recent production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels earned 11 nominations.

On Tuesday, June 12, the Colorado Theatre Guild announced the nominees for its annual Henry Awards, the most anticipated theater awards in the state, with two Colorado Springs companies represented: the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College and TheatreWorks. Last year, the FAC earned 12 nominations and won five awards for its production of Man of La Mancha, and Springs Ensemble Theater received three nominations.

Now, the FAC has racked up a whopping 24 nominations, putting them just behind Arvada Center, which received 29. TheatreWorks received two. Fun Home and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, both FAC productions, tied with the most nominations for a single production — 11 each.

The FAC was understandably proud to share the news on Twitter:

The Henry Awards ceremony will be held July 23 at the Lone Tree Arts Center. We’ll be sure to let you know how many awards our local companies take home. In the meantime, here’s a list of their nominations:

TheatreWorks:
  • Outstanding Actor in a Play (Mark Robbins for Amadeus)
  • Outstanding Costume Design, larger budget (Stephanie Bradley for Amadeus)

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College:
  • Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company
  • Outstanding Production of a Musical (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Fun Home)
  • Outstanding Direction of a Musical (Nathan Halvorson for Fun Home and Scott Levy for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)
  • Outstanding Musical Direction (Sharon Skidgel for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)
  • Outstanding Actress in a play (Lauren Hooper for Intimate Apparel)
  • Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Larry Cahn for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Patrick Oliver Jones for Fun Home, and Kyle Dean Steffen for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)
  • Outstanding Actress in a Musical (Jessica Kahkoska for Fun Home, Allison Mickelson for Fun Home)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical (Mackenzie Beyer for Fun Home, Judeth Shay Comstock for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Megan Van De Hey for Fun Home)
  • Outstanding Ensemble Performance (Fun Home)
  • Outstanding Choreography (Nathan Halvorson for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)
  • Outstanding Costume Design, larger budget (Sydney Gallas for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)
  • Outstanding Lighting Design, larger budget (Holly Rawls for Fun Home and Jonathan Spencer for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)
  • Outstanding Scenic Design, larger budget (Lex Liang for Fun Home, Christopher L. Sheley for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)
  • Outstanding Sound Design, larger budget (Tori Higgins for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Fun Home)
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Friday, May 25, 2018

Funky Little Theater Company moves to the former Theater on Pecan

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 1:13 PM

This little theater has big plans for its new space. - COURTESY FUNKY LITTLE THEATER
  • Courtesy Funky Little Theater
  • This little theater has big plans for its new space.

After more than three years in its current location on Templeton Gap Road, Funky Little Theater will be packing up shop (and set) and moving to the former Theater on Pecan, 1367 Pecan St., its new home for the foreseeable future.

This Westside venue has seen a few previous tenants, from the Millibo Art Theatre (which christened the space as a performance venue before moving to its current location on Tejon Street) to the Black Box Theatre, to the Grin Reaper Comedy Club.

It’s a step up in size for Funky, nearly doubling their seating capacity from a flexible 40 seats to a solid 80. Artistic director/founder Chris Medina says: “It seemed like the right time [to move]. We can consistently pack our house, but it’s going to be scary to fill an 80-seat house. ... What better way to step up our professionalism and step up our game than going to a big boy theater?”

Previous tenants have expressed difficulty in attracting audiences to the location, which sits somewhat tucked away among nondescript warehouses off 21st Street, but Medina says the landscape of the area is changing, with a new shopping center and a new housing development nearby. Plus, he says, Funky fans will find them no matter where they are.

“A lot of people know us already, “ he says, “so we’re hoping that those people will follow us and new people will find us. ... We’re excited to be embraced by the more artsy Westside, or so it’s been called.”

The move comes near the tail end of Funky’s "Season of the Female Playwright," though contrary to popular belief it does not mark the end of the season. Funky's current run of Harvey continues until June 2 in the soon-to-be old location, and Always a Bridesmaid and Body Awareness (in conjunction with [Spectrum]: LGBT Play Festival) will be performed at the new place before the season comes to a full close.

This means that all official grand opening celebrations will be reserved for July, though there will be plenty going on in the new Funky Little Theater in the meantime, including dance rehearsals and a performance of Funky Little Improv on June 9.

Medina says they're planning to move the last remaining pieces of the theater the day after they strike Harvey. Anyone interested in helping with the moving/cleaning effort should keep an eye on Funky's Facebook page for details in coming days.
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Friday, April 27, 2018

Smokebrush Foundation for the Arts tells a brief fairytale on Pioneers Museum lawn

Posted By on Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 4:45 PM

ALISSA SMITH
  • Alissa Smith

On April 27, Smokebrush Foundation for the Arts hosted The Well Between Two Words, "an experimental performance art piece about justice, desire, and the wishful immediate," created by Ella Goodine Richardson. Billed as lasting from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the performance took place in and around a hut erected on the Pioneers Museum lawn, decorated with cylindrical pillows and draping curtains.

When I arrived at 11 a.m., a group of performers sat in the hut, applying each others' doll-like makeup while they spoke quietly to each other. As with most experimental art, it can be hard to tell what is part of the piece and what is not, so I watched from afar for a few moments and decided to return for the main performance at 4 p.m.

At four (on the dot, thanks to the Pioneers Museum's bells) a small group of folks gathered on the lawn to watch what was essentially a brief fairytale, told through magic, music and a Greek-like chorus of three elaborately dressed narrators. The magic, provided by performers Anthem and Aria, earned a few well deserved rounds of applause from the audience, with cards, coins and trays disappearing into thin air.

The story itself was opaque — I think I picked up something about a woman looking into a well and seeing another world — but story may not have been the entire point.

While the main performance lasted less than 10 minutes, it transported its small audience momentarily from the nearby bustle of Tejon Street, and offered a nice, peaceful respite in the middle of a busy downtown Friday afternoon.

See below for some photos.


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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Funky Little Theater Company and The Gallery Below stage Eternal Flamer in first collaborative performance

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 at 4:37 PM

MISTI WALKER AND CHRIS MEDINA
  • Misti Walker and Chris Medina

Two local, diversity-minded arts groups are teaming up this weekend for an immersive production of Eternal Flamer: The Ballad of Jessie Blade, a play by New York City playwrights Tommy Jamerson and Josh Julian. Funky Little Theater Company, the theater responsible for the annual Spectrum: LGBT Play Festival, and The Gallery Below, which consistently showcases queer films, open mics and more, present "Funky Down Below," the first formal collaboration between the two groups.

April 26-28, 8:30 p.m., they’ll transport the audience to “the hottest, gayest nightclub of the 1980s,” following Jessie (played in this production by Alex Abundis). Small-town Minnesotan turned wannabe dancer, Jessie finds himself in a lavish New York City nightclub called Gomorrah, where he meets Madam, a drag queen emcee who helps him navigate his new life of dance, drugs, sex and sabotage.

This fun and campy production has been presented by Funky as a staged reading before, but will now bring all the neon lights and flashy dress of Gomorrah to the Gallery Below. They suggest dressing in your best ‘80s outfit, so this may be one of the rare times you’ll look silly if you aren’t wearing leg warmers and shoulder pads — a golden opportunity to get retro.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Trojan Women is 2,500 year-old play that's still relevant today

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 9:13 AM

The Trojan Women, April 19-21, 7:30 p.m., and April 21, 2 p.m., PPCC Centennial Theater, ppcc.edu. - SARAH SHAVER
  • Sarah Shaver
  • The Trojan Women, April 19-21, 7:30 p.m., and April 21, 2 p.m., PPCC Centennial Theater, ppcc.edu.
It’s always valuable to view history, and historical works of art, through a contemporary lens, to best digest the lessons humanity has or (often) hasn’t learned. The Trojan Women, a play written nearly 2,500 years ago by Euripides, still addresses relevant themes, and director Sarah Shaver has added “a modern twist” to call attention to what it has to say. With five female leads and an all-female chorus in this PPCC student production, the power of the story comes more fully to light, speaking to the dehumanization of women that has plagued society for thousands of years, as well as the often ignored collateral damage of war. The Trojan Women looks at the aftermath of war without any of the glory or nationalism, and from the point of view of the conquered. The premise: At the end of the Trojan War, with the men of Troy largely slaughtered by the invading Greeks, the survivors grieve together and await their fate. Many of these women will become slaves to the Greek army. Attendees at the April 21 matinée are invited to a talk-back with the director and the cast, which includes some combat veterans and active service members who can speak personally to its themes.
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Friday, March 30, 2018

Fine Arts Center releases 2018/19 theater season

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2018 at 10:21 AM

February's Intimate Apparel was one of our favorite shows from the FAC's 2017/18 season. - JEFF KEARNEY
  • Jeff Kearney
  • February's Intimate Apparel was one of our favorite shows from the FAC's 2017/18 season.
On Friday, March 30, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College released the lineup for its 2018/19 theater season. Though the 2017-2018 season wraps up this spring with Fun Home (through April 22), Fully Committed (April 27-May 20), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (May 24-June 17) and Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (June 29-July 21), we're already looking forward to fall. True to form, the FAC’s mainstage, studio and family productions promise a variety of themes and styles, some musical, all regional premieres.

Among them, Shakespeare in Love (Sept. 27-Oct. 21, 2018), adapted from the popular 1988 film. While the Springs' enjoys occasional productions of Shakespeare's work (with TheatreWorks' annual summer Shakespeare production, a recent creative spin on MacBeth by Counterweight Theatre Lab, and Shakespeare in the Alley set to premiere this summer) this creative and whimsical romance follows William Shakespeare himself and the noblewoman-turned-actor who inspires his most famous play, Romeo and Juliet. It employs plenty of Shakespearean tropes, making it a must-see for fans of the bard, or for anyone who wants to enjoy a devastatingly good romance. It's a solid season opener, thanks to its accessibility and acclaim.

Another intriguing mainstage production (that couldn't land thematically farther from Shakespeare in Love): Hands on a Hardbody (March 28-April 14), a musical with a country and roots-rock vibe. The premise: In a profound expression of American materialism, 10 Texans spend days on end with one hand on a brand new truck, hoping to win it by being the last one standing. It’s a ridiculous concept, and even better once you learn that it is, in fact, a true story — if somewhat embellished for the stage.

In the studio series, Church & State (Nov. 2-25) sounds like it will address some relevant social issues regarding religion, politics, and “how politics has become a religion.” While the show certainly has its comedic elements, the topic alone makes it a more sober choice for the season, and should start some interesting conversations — always a sign of good theater.

Special theatrical events abound, as well. Before the mainstage productions start in September, the FAC will host PIE, a touring production by Theater Grottesco, a Santa Fe-based troupe that has created 13 full-length plays and more than 30 short pieces since its founding in 1983 in Paris, France. PIE was jointly inspired by the Carl Sagan quote “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe," and the Kate Tempest Poem “Brand New Ancients.” Theater Grottesco says of PIE: “Simply put, four lovable fools arrive at a panel discussion where the moderator doesn't show up. They have a collective nervous breakdown, unleashing their inner gods, and accidentally destroy and reinvent the universe.” It will run only four dates: Aug. 30-Sept. 2.

See below for the full season lineup, and look for subscription packages on the FAC website.

Mainstage
Shakespeare in Love: Sept. 27-Oct. 21, 2018
Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical: Dec. 6, 2018-Jan. 6, 2019
Anna in the Tropics: Feb. 7-24, 2019
Hands on a Hardbody: March 28-April 14, 2019
Barnum: May 23-June 16, 2019

Family & Studio Series
Go, Dog. Go!: Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2018
Church & State: Nov. 2-25, 2018
Ben and the Magic Paintbrush: March 8-April 7, 2019
Bad Dates: April 26-May 19, 2019

Special Theater Events
PIE: Aug. 30-Sept. 2, 2018
An Evening with Paul Reiser:Aug. 17, 2018
An Evening with Paula Poundstone: Nov. 1, 2018
Happy Hour Stand-Up: July 6, 2018; Aug. 3, 2018; Dec. 7, 2018; Jan. 4, 2019; Feb. 1, 2019; June 7, 2019
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Stage, silent film, solid metaphors and more recommended events this week

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 1:00 AM

15 Thursday

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The Totalitarians
Politics are scary these days, no doubt about it, but sometimes it’s easiest to take the power out of something by laughing at it. This dark comedy by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb follows a candidate for Nebraska state office, her charismatic speech-writer, and the rippling effects of her dirty campaign. Washingtonian.com says this is “the kind of hilarious but unsettling show in which a character gurgling on his own blood while he’s trying to make a speech gets huge laughs from the audience.” Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, 4 p.m., through March 4, Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 Cache La Poudre St., $10-$15, springsensembletheatre.org.

16 Friday

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Silent Film Soirée: Roaring ’20s Costume Party & Kids Night Out
Enjoy a screening of the 1928 classic The Cameraman, starring Buster Keaton and Springs-born Marceline Day, with live musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Far from just a screening: The night includes drinks, dessert, a ‘20s-themed costume party, photobooth and more. While parents enjoy the party, kids can attend a screening of their own with crafts, activities and access to the Pioneers Museum’s children’s exhibit. Feb. 16, 6:45-9:30 p.m., Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, 215 S. Tejon St., $10-$35, cspm.org.

16 Friday

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Solid Metaphor
Rick Berry, an expressionistic figure artist, got his start in Colorado Springs, working on comic books. He carries sci-fi and fantasy influences into his fine art, and continues to excel in the comic scene. Colorado-based Michael Dowling is a contemporary realist painter whose work includes beautiful and unsettling portraits. Exhibiting together, these artists join in contemplation of “the future of evolution or humanity and idea,” meaning an examination of the future of human experience. Big ideas, solid metaphors. Feb. 16, 5-8 p.m., on display through March 24, G44 Gallery, 1785 S. Eighth St., Suite A, galleryg44.com.

20 Tuesday

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Ailey II
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater began with dancer Alvin Ailey and a group of young black modern dancers in 1958. Ailey II, founded in 1974, is now a world-renowned company in its own right, and presents young dance talent with work by emerging choreographers. The mission of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s education, outreach and performances is to build a cultural community that honors all ages, races and backgrounds. Feb. 20, 7:30 p.m., Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., $22-$75, uccspresents.org.


Find even more weekly listings in each Wednesday issue of the Indy, and submit your own events here.
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Friday, January 12, 2018

Ent Center for the Arts, UCCS' multi-venue, multi-purpose cultural center in pictures

Posted By on Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 3:31 PM

GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell

On Tuesday, Jan. 16, the much-anticipated UCCS Ent Center for the Arts will officially open its doors to the public. The University of Colorado Colorado Springs has focused on every detail of this state-of-the-art, multi-purpose venue, from the ergonomics of new theater seats to the perfect Steinway piano to grace the recital hall.

We took a tour of the new space, exploring all the new opportunities that the center will provide for UCCS and the professional entities attached to it — TheatreWorks and the Galleries of Contemporary Art.

The building itself shines on its perch on North Nevada Avenue, a sweeping silver edifice, with Starr Kempf’s iconic kinetic sculptures spinning in the wind as we drive up.

Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows open up westward to a view of the mountains, with classy, modern furniture punctuating the otherwise white and silver lobby. Above our heads hangs the Ent Center’s permanent art installation, a piece by Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues (Ball-Nogues Studio). Its many threads drape in blues, purples and reds, a delicate and powerful addition to an already powerful space. And, believe it or not, that’s just the lobby.

Ball-Nogues Studio created this piece specifically for Ent Center for the Arts. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Ball-Nogues Studio created this piece specifically for Ent Center for the Arts.

With five major venues, plus music practice rooms, offices, rehearsal space, a café, dance studios, classrooms and more, the Ent Center for the Arts serves a variety of needs both for UCCS and the wider community, and I can admit we’re a little excited about it.

Michelle Winchell, marketing and PR representative for UCCS Presents, says: “There’s a lot of stakeholders [in this building], especially with all the shared spaces, because it’s not just these professional programs; it’s also the academic programs and community partners who will be renting the space.”

Teams and committees throughout the process took a variety of needs and perspectives into account. For instance, the size of the Shockley-Zalabak Theater (the largest Ent Center venue, with up to 792 seats) was decided based in part on a report by the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, which indicated a community need for larger venues that weren’t quite the overwhelming size of the Pikes Peak Center (which boasts 2,000 seats). “People who used to rent a high school auditorium — they won’t be able to fill the Pikes Peak Center, but they might fill this space. It’s a lot nicer [than an auditorium], and it’s actually made for performing arts.”

The Shockley-Zalabak Theater - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • The Shockley-Zalabak Theater
In fact, every venue in the Ent Center has been made for the performing arts in one way or another. Acousticians worked in each of them, even GOCA’s new space (the Marie Walsh Sharpe Galleries of Contemporary Art), to ensure that the needs of all sizes and sorts of performances could be met. The attention to detail and customization is also evident in TheatreWorks’ new performance venue — the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater.

Dusty Loo is marginally larger in size than its former location, and can now seat up to 300 people, but what’s truly exciting isn’t so much the capacity as the new opportunity to expand the quality and variety of performance. Not only does TheatreWorks now have high ceilings to encourage multi-level sets, but the late Murray Ross, founder of TheatreWorks, was adamant about installing a trap door, which the organization already plans to use in its upcoming production of Oklahoma! (opening Feb. 15).

The Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theatre - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • The Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theatre
Lynne Hastings, Artistic Producer of TheatreWorks, says that the technical aspects of the theater (including rolling gantries to assist in light and set work) are most exciting to her, and not just for the production possibilities. “Another thing I love with this whole space,” she says, “is that the students get the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art equipment. And everything’s the same in every theater... That gives them flexibility for all the programming going on here, and it gives the students a chance to work on these professional-level productions.”

Many of the behind-the-scenes amenities were designed with students in mind, as the Ent Center remains, at its core, an integral part of UCCS’ academics. A new dance studio, which Winchell calls “the beauty room” provides a gorgeous view of the mountains, a marked step above the converted loading dock currently used by dance students. Plus, the catwalk in the Shockley-Zalabak Theater feels stable underfoot, not nearly as frightening to walk on as this acrophobic expected.

During the tour, we happened to stumble upon artist Floyd Tunson, putting the finishing touches on an installation that will hang outside the Marie Walsh Sharpe GOCA for a year — his Haitian Dream Boats. GOCA artistic director Daisy McGowan says that the installation will “amplify” Tunson’s upcoming exhibit, Janus, which will open Feb. 1.

Floyd Tunson's Haitian Dream Boats - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Floyd Tunson's Haitian Dream Boats
The gallery space itself boasts a variety of new goodies about which McGowan was happy to share her excitement. For one, the team was intentional about acoustics, which are a necessary consideration for a gallery that does so much multi-media art. In addition to that, GOCA can now take advantage of plywood-backed walls (to better hang artwork), customizable lighting, and museum-certified humidity control, which will enable them to exhibit artwork from collections that they may not have had the opportunity to exhibit before.

Taking it all in, the Ent Center exudes “possibility” — possibility for more dynamic performances, better-sounding concerts, more artwork, more customization, more community collaboration and more collaboration between UCCS departments. While UCCS has fared well within its spaces before, including notable exhibits at GOCA and award-winning shows at TheatreWorks, the freedom provided by this extensive, specialized and customized space will provide a wealth of new opportunities, and we are excited to see what they do with them.

As TheatreWorks’ Lynne Hastings says: “There’s no boundaries anymore.”

See below for more photos from our tour.


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