Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cirque du Soleil's OVO impresses

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 11:22 AM

I’m not saying I rate circus acts based on how many times it looked like the performers could’ve died if someone had made a mistake, but if I did, then Cirque du Soleil’s OVO would get a 10/10.

  • Courtesy Cirque du Soleil
  • Case in point.
These performers (or artists, as Cirque rightfully calls them) are on a level that is frankly unimaginable. It’s fitting that the aesthetic of Cirque shows is, by nature, surreal. Because when you see someone hanging by a single strap from a 30-foot ceiling — while holding a grown woman by the ankle as the pair swirls around the stage like a beautiful, high-flying blender — you start to feel like you’re dreaming.

Like most Cirque premises, the concept for OVO is a little opaque, but nevertheless enjoyable. The performers represent insects living in a thriving ecosystem, but it’s disrupted when someone brings a mysterious egg into their midst. I’m still struggling with the metaphor of the egg, but my companion guessed it could represent creativity or new beginnings. Both, or neither, might be accurate, but it’s fun to watch at any rate. Especially considering the plotty bits are acted out by the circus’ clowns (a beetle, a mosquito and a ladybug), who are just hilariously over-the-top.

The most impressive part of the whole thing, though, is how the the acrobatic performers somehow manage to act their parts (as spiders or crickets or whatever else) even while they’re, say, balancing on their chin on a unicycle on a slackwire.

This spider's slackwire routine caused more than a few audience-wide gasps. - COURTESY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
  • Courtesy Cirque du Soleil
  • This spider's slackwire routine caused more than a few audience-wide gasps.

The costumes, too, deserve a mention, especially the grasshoppers, who had angled "legs" attached to their pants. It made for an excellent effect as they danced. Throughout the show, there was hardly a moment I doubted these people were supposed to be insects, and most of the time I felt I could accurately guess at which ones they were.

The ensemble did an excellent job diffusing the tension after acrobats flung themselves dangerously all over the arena. - COURTESY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
  • Courtesy Cirque du Soleil
  • The ensemble did an excellent job diffusing the tension after acrobats flung themselves dangerously all over the arena.

Last night’s premiere at the Broadmoor World Arena was frankly flawless, at least as far as I could tell. I gasped, shook my companion by the shoulder and pointed wide-eyed at the stage more times than I care to admit. It really makes you feel like a kid again.

OVO will run daily through Jan. 22, so don’t miss your chance. The tickets might be a touch pricey (starting at $43), but it's certainly a memorable enough performance to warrant the splurge.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

TheatreWorks founder Murray Ross remembered

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 5:10 PM

Our local theater community suffered a hard blow this afternoon when it was announced that Murray Ross (74), artistic director and founder of TheatreWorks, had passed away following a “short illness,” according to a release from UCCS chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak.

click image Ross (right) accepted his Eve Tilley Lifetime Achievement Award at last October's Pikes Peak Arts Council awards. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL / FILE PHOTO
  • Griffin Swartzell / File Photo
  • Ross (right) accepted his Eve Tilley Lifetime Achievement Award at last October's Pikes Peak Arts Council awards.

Following the news, friends, family and members of the community took to Facebook to share their experiences with Ross and express their condolences to his family. In between recurring words like “remarkable” and “visionary,” and stories recalling some of the 100-plus productions with which he was involved, it’s clear to see the effect that Ross has had on this community since starting TheatreWorks in 1975.

Drew Martorella, Executive Director of UCCS Presents and longtime friend of Ross', posted on TheatreWorks Facebook Page, "I have known and worked with Murray for over twenty years. And while I was the Executive Director of TheatreWorks we were essential to each other. We were best friends. I already miss him terribly. Once more, to quote Murray, 'In play we are free, and we are human, and in the theatre we are free and human together. We wish you joy.' I share his wish for joy for you all."

Here is what UCCS has to say about Ross and his accomplishments. Out of respect to his family’s wishes, the language is unchanged.

Murray joined UCCS in 1975 and is considered the founder of Theatreworks, the professional theater based at the university, as well as the academic theater program at the university. He produced classic and contemporary plays in classrooms, buses, warehouses, basements and the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater. Among his credits are directing, adapting and creating more than 100 works for the stage including the original scripts "Monkey Business," "The Last Night of Don Juan," "The Lady of Camellias," "Dar-al-Harb" and "I Am Nikola Tesla." He also wrote stage adaptations of classics such as "Huckleberry Finn" and "A Christmas Carol." His most recent adaption of "A Christmas Carol" was successfully staged this December. His first love and greatest passion was always Shakespeare, and his 1984 production of “The Comedy of Errors” in a circus tent started a tradition of outdoor summer productions that continues to anchor the Theatreworks season today. In 1988, noted scholar Stephen Booth wrote in Shakespeare Quarterly that Murray’s summer production was “The Best Othello I Ever Saw.”

Theatreworks received a Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1994, a Henary Award for Oustanding Regional Theatre in 2013 as well as numerous local accolades. The program celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015, the same year UCCS marked the 50th anniversary of its founding. Murray directed four plays in 2016, and during his recent days in the hospital Murray was making active preparations for his next production.

In addition to his work with Theatreworks, Murray was a respected teacher and scholar. He taught theater as well as English literature. Murray and his wife, Betty, were fixtures of the Colorado Springs arts community. They were ardent supporters of the arts and the development of the under construction $70 million UCCS Ent Center for the Arts which contains a space named in their honor.

Murray worked with thousands of students, artists, actors and staff and left an impression on each. He was funny, smart, a bit of an anarchist and a great lover of life. Adventures, storytelling and spirited debate filled his life.

Murray earned a bachelor's degree from Williams College, a master's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and also pursued doctoral studies at UC Berkeley, where he began directing. He served in the National Guard from 1963-1969, and taught and directed at the University of Rochester before joining UCCS.

Survivors include his wife, Betty, his sisters Susanna, Christina and Kit, and his sons Felix, James, Orion and Matthew.

Please join me in offering condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Murray Ross. Notes may be sent to the family in care of the Office of the Chancellor, 401 Main Hall. At the request of the family, donations can be made to the Murray Ross Artists Endowment Fund with the CU Foundation.

There will be a campus memorial service Thursday, Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater in University Hall. Those who wish to make a donation in his honor may contribute to the Murray Ross Artists Endowment Fund with the CU Foundation.

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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.
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

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

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
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.

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
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

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.


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:


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

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

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

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:

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.”


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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
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