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Friday, February 29, 2008

Stranger in a Strange Land

Now, I don't know how many of you are familiar with Larry Shue's play, The Foreigner, but it's one of my all-time favorites. When I heard that Terry Dodd would be directing the Metropolitan State College of Denver's mounting of this production, I could not have been more excited.
I made a point of finding one of Metro's most-talented young actors, Ben Cowhick, and made sure that he got a personal introduction to Terry (who, in addition to being one of Denver's most talented and hard-working directors and playwrights, is also a heckuva nice guy.) Then I pointed Ben in the direction of another of Larry Shue's plays, The Nerd, as a monologue source for his audition.
Now, did I actually have anything whatsoever to do with Ben getting the lead role of Charley in the show? No, of course not. When you see the play (and you really should) you will see that this young man's talent alone garnered him the coveted role. Am I going to take credit for it anyway? Yup. Get used to it.
All kidding aside, Ben Cowhick gives an absolutely athletic comic performance as the mousy British traveler who pretends to be a foreigner who speaks no English so that he will be left alone. Naturally, the hijinks ensue. Terrific performances abound in this production -- Jesssica Evans and Jeff Simpson in particular -- but expect Cowhick's manic portrayal to bring you to your feet at the curtain call.
Now, this play is not listed on the CTG website. John Moore and company will not be writing a review in the Post or the News, but I'm telling you that this will be one of the best plays you'll see this season.
Here is the info on the show:
The Foreigner by Larry Shue
Directed by Terry Dodd
February 28- March 1 & March 6-8, 2008 @ 7:30 PM
March 9 @ 2:30 PM
MSCD King Center Studio Theatre
On the Auraria Campus in Denver
(Located right next to the Tivoli STudent Union)
For reservations, call 303-556-2296
*Only two weekends!*

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the playwright Larry Shue's body of work, that's because there really isn't much to it. Tragically, Mr. Shue was killed in a plane crash at the age of 39. Here is a nice tribute site to the man and his work.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

PHAMALy and Art Works

As I write this, PHAMALy is right in the middle of callbacks for their summer production of their "signature" musical, Side Show.
It's going to be a good one, folks. (Tickets will go on sale April 11th.)
If you don't know much about PHAMALy, I highly recommend that you check out their website.
In fact, there's a very interesting symposium coming up on March 7th about careers in the arts for people with disabilities.
From Regan Linton, Administrative Director of PHAMALy:

ART WORKS – A FREE Forum on Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities

Saturday, March 8, 9:30am-5pm, Tivoli Union, Auraria Campus downtown

Join PHAMALY, the Colorado Council on the Arts, and VSA arts of Colorado for this unique event bringing people together to discuss the topic of careers in the arts for people with disabilities. The event is FREE and includes lunch and a wine and cheese reception. Workshops include a Successful Artists Panel (covering topics of making a living in the arts), an Employers Panel (covering topics of how arts employers can open their doors to people with disabilities), and performances include PHAMALY and ImprovAbility Dance Company. Register at, or by calling 303-575-0005.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

At the Movies: The Spiderwick Chronicles

Sometimes I like to go to the movie theatre and just say, "Give me one ticket to whatever is showing next."
I don't do this as often since Will Ferrell started making movies.
But, a couple of days ago, I decided to try it again (with a wary eye out for any posters featuring Mr. Ferrell's mug), and the "roulette wheel" stopped on The Spiderwick Chronicles.
All I knew about this movie going in was that it was based on a series of kids' fantasy books (no doubt hastily-written a few years back to cash in on the Harry Potter craze) that I have not read, and featured the young British wunderkind-actor-of-the-moment, Freddie Highmore, in a role that was decidedly un-British.
I sat down in the empty theatre with my medium (which evidently means "enormous") soda and my box of Milk Duds, and, as the lights went down, I was still the only person in the place and remained so through the entire film. It was 3:00 PM on a Monday, but it was the Denver Pavilions, too, so it seemed odd that no one was present for a movie that had been in theatres less than two weeks. I grew concerned:
Was Jessica Simpson in this movie?
She wasn't, but I was very pleased to see that David Strathairn, one of my favorite actors, appeared as Arthur Spiderwick, the author of the field guide to the hidden world of goblins and fairies from which the film (and book series) gets its title.
Freddie Highmore is impressive in the dual role of twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace. Modern film technology takes us seamlessly beyond the "split-screen" doublings of old, but young Highmore still manages to play the subtle differences between the brothers with such skill that I was never sure just how many actors I was watching. I had to do an IMDb search when I got home just to reassure myself that there wasn't also an "Eddie" Highmore identical twin. (There isn't.)
I was also very impressed with Irish-born Sarah Bolger as the boys' older sister Mallory, who, in delightful girl-power fashion, studies fencing and, during the goblin battles, is downright swashbuckling.
The creatures of the film are fun. The boys and girls over at ILM obviously had a blast bringing to life goblins, fairies, a griffin, a brownie (Martin Short), the evil ogre Mulgarath (Nick Nolte), and whatever the heck Hogsqueal (Seth Rogen) is supposed to be.
Still, it is the two (three?) performances by the young heroes that really made the film for me.
Mary-Louise Parker may be a bit over-qualified to tackle the role of "Mom" in this film, but she definitely doesn't phone it in here, either.
Everything wrapped up just a little too neatly for me in the end, but this is a kids' movie after all.
Final verdict: It's a fun film, and no reviews that I've read since my solo viewing suggest that anyone else feels differently.
Something tells me that, a few years from now, clips from this film will show up in the "remember when?" reels of acclaimed grown-up actors Freddie Highmore and Sarah Bolger.


Leave everything on the field.
I had a soccer coach who used to say that. It's a popular saying among athletic coaches, and it means play hard. Give everything of your self in the game. There should not be one ounce of energy or effort left in you by the final buzzer.
The term has come to be borrowed in the performance world. I've heard dancers say, "I left it all out there."
Last night, during the curtain call of the Denver Center Theatre Company's Lydia, I saw seven performers who had absolutely nothing left in them. They looked like runners who had just finished a marathon.
In many ways they had.
Octavio Solis's world premiere play is emotionally, physically, and spiritually demanding for both cast and audience. It's also one of the most beautiful and tragic stories I've ever seen.
I have written and erased now three different plot synopses, because any description I give of the story seems woefully inadequate. There is so much to this story of the Flores family and their new maid, Lydia. So many levels. So many secrets. If you've seen it, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven't, well, saying that I "highly recommend" that you see this play feels like it falls a bit short of the mark. This play is . . . important.
There are six remaining performances of Lydia. Just six. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Rockin' the Rockies

As I promised the MySpacers, I am devoting this blog entry to a new band that was brought to my attention a few days ago.
Some of you may have heard Lost Point's "Breathe For" played on 106.7 KBPI, and, if you haven't, contact them and request it.
The Parker-based rock band consists of the three brothers Hill (Tyler on vocals, Jace on vocals and guitar, and Brennan on bass) joined by Bryan "Beef" Rozsa on drums.
Now, no artist likes to be compared to anyone else, but, if I were marketing these guys, I'd draw some similarities to Evanescence in terms of mood and A.F.I. for structure, and, as comparisons go, that ain't too shabby.
At the moment, the band's website is on MySpace, and there you can listen and download tracks or buy the album All Dressed Up outright. So if you already have a MySpace account, go here for Lost Point. If you're not a MySpacer, it's truly very painless to get signed up, fluffy bunny profiles and "what flavor of gelatin are you" surveys are entirely optional, and, who knows, you may just surf into your old bunkmate from Camp Eecheebum all those years ago.
Do be careful, though. There are a few undesireables lurking around there as well.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Walker Day

The following is an essay that I wrote not too long ago about my best friend, Greg Walker. Some of you may have seen it posted elsewhere. I'm sharing it again because today, February 23rd, is Greg's birthday. I hope that you will take the time to read it.
"Greg's Friend, The Genius"

I used to take myself pretty seriously in high school. I studied hard. I stressed over grades. I was an A student, but it was not without struggle. Being a top student, I also had the added pressure of everyone I knew having their own plan for my life. My dad wanted me to be a doctor. My mom wanted me to be a teacher. My science teacher wanted me to be a physicist. My math teacher wanted me to be an engineer. My civics teacher felt that I should go into politics. The list goes on. Only two things seemed to serve as much of a release. One was performing on-stage in school or community theatre, and the other was hanging out with my friend Greg Walker, who continuously reminded me: "Screw it, dude. Life is short."
This sentiment could sometimes be frustrating from Greg, because he, too, was an A student, but with half the effort. In fact, most things came to Greg without effort. He was good at sports. Girls were crazy about him. He was the most popular guy in school, and despite the ease with which he maintained his 4.0 GPA, he always managed to play it off, describing me to people as his "friend, the genius."
Nobody bothered Greg too much about what he was going to become. When they asked, he would smile and say, "Probably a marine biologist. After I travel."
I didn't know what I wanted to do. Actually, that's not true. I wanted to go into the performing arts, but I didn't dare tell anyone that. They would say I was wasting my potential. I was going to have to settle for my second choice, but I had no idea what that would be.
Greg knew what I really wanted to do. He was my only friend who came to see me in the shows that I performed in the next town over.
Greg and I were the co-valedictorians of our class. My valedictory speech was thoughtful, inspiring, and weighty. His was just funny. At this point, I still didn't know what I wanted to do, or, rather, what I wanted to do second-most.
Somewhere about mid-summer, I decided on Broadcast Journalism. It was kind of like performing. Greg was working as a prep cook at one of the better restaurants in the next town, a job he loved. He was saving up for his trip to Europe.
I didn't hear too much from Greg while I was in school. I got a postcard now and then from him asking, "How's school?" School was awful. I hated my major. Broadcast Journalism wasn't like performing. It was manipulating facts to earn ratings. It made me stick to my stomach. In my third year, I left school. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. While I tried to figure it out, I worked in a toy store, I built fences, I dug ditches, I ruined my credit rating in a multi-level marketing venture, and I basically dashed all the hopes and dreams that my parents, teachers, and friends had once had for me.
Every now and then I would hear from Greg, and I ran into him a couple of the times that I returned home with my tail between my legs. He was basically living in a cycle where he worked at one or two restaurants around town until he saved enough money to return to Europe, living in hostels until he only had enough money to get home. He would then fly back to the states and start saving again. He had an interesting life. What I found most interesting, though, was that Greg was happy – something that still eluded me. When I told him how I felt that my life was a mess, and I didn't know what to do with myself, he would smile, put his arm around me, and say, "Screw it, dude. Life is short."
At one of my lower points, I was working near a ski resort in a shoe store with people I despised. I hated my life. I feared that I had jumped the tracks for good, and that my life was as good as it was going to get.
I got a phone call from Greg.
"Hey, brother, I'm getting married! I met this amazing girl!"
He then told me that he was saving up for a hiking trip in Mexico in a few months, and when he got back he was going to get married, move to Oregon, and start going to school for marine biology. As happy as he had always seemed before, he sounded like he was absolutely over the moon now.
"How are you, man?" he asked me. I'm sure I tried to sound like everything was great on my end, but Greg could hear through it.
"Isn't there any theatre around you there? You were really good at that, man. I was always so jealous of you when you were on stage."
We said our good-byes, and I got ready to head in to work. I opened the paper to look at the want-ads, hoping to find a job selling anything other than shoes. Instead, I saw a small announcement:
"The Backstage Theatre is holding auditions for its season of shows. All types needed."
I went to the local bookstore on my way to work and bought a book of monologues. I spent my lunch breaks for the next three days memorizing a monologue for the audition.
On the day of the auditions, I walked into the little theatre, and very nearly walked right back out. Then I remembered Greg's words:
"You were really good at that, man."
I auditioned, and the next day I got the call. I had a lead role in one of the shows that would open in a few months! I couldn't wait for rehearsals to start!
Rehearsing the show made me feel like I was alive again. I smiled a lot more. I could tell that I was annoying my co-workers at the shoe store, because I was no longer as miserable as they were. It was a joyous time.
The show opened to great success, and I overheard audience members and other actors saying, "Wow, who's that new guy?"
I was! I was the new guy – Greg Walker's genius friend!
I wanted to call Greg when I got home, but instead I got a call at the theatre. It was my mom.
"Greg disappeared from his hiking party in Mexico three days ago. His family is going down to help look for him."
I wanted to go, too, but I couldn't leave the show. I had no understudy. Besides, I couldn't afford to make the trip.
A week or so later, I got another call. The search had been called off. It was unlikely that Greg had survived at that altitude in those conditions. A smaller party would continue to look for the body. Greg was presumed dead. I went to the show that night. I walked into the dressing room in a fog. Greg, my greatest supporter, would never get to see me perform again.
One of the veteran actors asked me what was wrong. I told him. He said, "This was the guy who got you to audition for this show?"
"Yeah, sort of," I answered.
He called the other actors together and told them the story. He said, "Tonight we do the show for Brady's friend."
Yes. Tonight I would give my best performance! Tonight I would use my talent to celebrate the memory of my friend! I was on fire that night on stage! I saw audience members fall out of their chairs with laughter! Lines with which I had previously struggled now flowed with ease.
I got so caught up in my performance that at one point I almost walked out on stage without one of my props. I remembered at the last possible second, reached blindly behind me, and, luckily, put my hand right on the item I needed. I walked on stage and performed my scene flawlessly.
That night, we received a standing ovation. It was to be the first of many for that play, one of the most successful shows the theatre had ever produced.
When I got backstage, I found something curious. The prop table was located about ten feet away from where I had been standing when I reached back and found my prop in my hand. No one else had been backstage at that moment, and there was nothing but air that my prop could have been resting on and still been within my reach.
I smiled.
"Thanks, Greg," I said softly. He had been there after all.
That night I decided to pursue the one thing that I had always wanted – a life in the arts. It has been a bumpy road at times, and I haven't made my fortune yet, but, you know what? I'm happy. There are still probably plenty of people out there who feel that I may have wasted my potential, but when I think of them, I only hear one thing:
"Screw it, dude. Life is short."
Today, I try to do something that I'm a little bit intimidated or even scared to do. It doesn't have to be big. Just scary. I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet, but I hope it will make Greg proud.
And, since Greg was just about the biggest Beatles fan I ever met:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Closer and Closer

Just a quick reminder: Uncorked Productions's Closer is in the last weekend of its run. This is a powerful show, with absolutely mesmerizing performances, so, if you haven't seen it, get there this weekend. Corwin Christie's performance will take your breath away, and I don't just mean in scene 7. (Don't know what I'm talking about? I guess you'll just have to see it, now, won't you?)
In all seriousness, though, the sheer honesty of this script is mind-blowing, and the cast definitely does it justice. There are two more performances as of this entry, so move fast. You might even want to drop by the Mercury Cafe beforehand for some great food, great atmosphere, and terrible service. (Ah, it's the Merc. What are you gonna do?)
Another quick reminder: the discussion boards over at Theatre Colorado are severely wanting for discussion. This is a great opportunity to get involved in those "cast party" kind of conversations withot having to listen to the video of the show you just closed playing in the background. (Why do they do that?)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Back to the Future

I'm often wary of recommending shows that I haven't yet seen, but, since my schedule sometimes precludes my being able to see a show at its opening, I will sometimes list what I think are "safe bets" based upon past experiences. This way, I can spread the word about a show even before I manage to get there myself (if I get there at all.)
Still, this practice has the potential to bite this bad wolf in his big bushy tail.
Luckily, like Music For a Sparkling Planet's Tamara Tomorrow, I have a pretty good skill for prediction.
I saw tonight that I had definitely picked a winner with Firehouse's latest offering under the deft direction of Bernie Cardell featuring his band of usual suspects Gene Kato, Andy Anderson, Joel Sutliffe, Robert Payo, and the ever-talented and always-delightful Jessica Clare.
This is really a beautiful and funny story, and I cannot imagine it being handled any better than it was among these artists.
There are just four more performances, and I could not recommend it more emphatically , piglets, if I came over to your house and huffed and puffed. (Which I just might do.)
Get your chinny-chin-chins out to see this one.

Friday, February 8, 2008

House Rules

The headline of this entry has a double meaning.
First, I'm glad that there have been a couple more episodes of my favorite (American) T.V. show, "House M.D" since so many other programs have taken an extended and indefinite hiatus during the W.G.A. strike. Sadly, I think a couple more was all I was going to get. The "replacements" are already lining up. "Reality" television. The great wasteland of "Look at me! Look at me!" seekers of fifteen minutes of fame who both are and appeal to the lowest common denominator of the human condition.
Seems like a really good time to catch one of the great shows playing live at a theatre near you.
There's Beauty and the Beast over at the Lakewood Cultural Center, Uncorked Productions' Closer, and Music For a Sparkling Planet over at the John Hand, just to name a few.
There's also the second meaning behind today's headline, Our House, an original play I enjoyed last night over at the DCPA. Our House is a scathing look at the phenomena of network reality T.V.
The script is clever (if a bit heavy-handed at times) and the performances are absolutely engaging. Be forewarned: t's adult in nature, and it may not be for all tastes, which might explain why the audiences have been small. Still, what good is only going to safe theatre? I applaud DCTC artistic director Kent Thompson for taking chances. To me, that's what theatre is all about, and, again, I really enjoyed the show. It only runs through February 16, so, if you want to see it, you'd better hurry.
Remember, too, that students can show up one hour before any performance, show I.D. and get tickets (if available) for only $10. That's just about the best theatre deal in town.