Theatre happenings ...

NEWS OF THE WEEK AND WHAT TO DO

THEATRE COMPANIES ENTER CANCELLATION MODE

Michal Andrea Meyer and Patti Murtha in The Betsy Stage's 2013 production of 'The Travesty of Lear.'

Betsy Stage is the first Colorado theatre company to permanently close in wake of COVID

By John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist

With 20 Colorado counties moving to "Level Red" restrictions through at least December 18, essentially all planned holiday theatre programming that included a live component ... no longer does, with now just one exception.

Update: Performances of "The Winter Wonderettes," which just opened at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown, continued as scheduled this weekend but will then be stopped when Larimer County goes to the "Red Level" of COVID restrictions on Tuesday. 

However, continuing in Golden: "The Polar Express Train Ride." According to the website: "COVID-19 caseloads and concerns are on the rise. However, we want to assure you that the show is still on."

OTHER NEWLY CANCELED OR POSTPONED SHOWS: 

  • Faith Goins"Black Nativity": The Aurora Fox has canceled its holiday production of “Black Nativity,” a retelling of the Christmas story from an Afro-centric perspective. However, the Fox will be filming a concert version of selected songs from the show and offer it up to audiences virtually. The music is arranged by Trent Hines and will feature Mosés Brown, Anna High, Faith Angelise Goins-Simmons (pictured) and Kenny Moten. Ordering info to come.
  • “Carne y Arena” The groundbreaking virtual-reality installation that has been showing at the The Hanger at Stanley Marketplace has temporarily shut down. Presented in partnership with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, "Carne y Arena" was conceived by five-time Academy Award-winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu ("Birdman") to explore the human condition of immigrants and refugees. Visitors can sign up to receive an update when the show reopens.
  • "A Made for TV Holiday Homicide": Adams Mystery Playhouse has canceled its next two weeks of performances. It presently plans to re-open December 3 with repertory dinner-theatre performances including "Holidays R Murder."
  • "Stuffed with Thanks(Giving)." Steel City Theatre Company in Pueblo has canceled the final weekend of its live "drive-in" theatre experience offering three short stories about Thanksgiving.
  • "Little Shop of Horrors": Parker Arts has canceled its production of the mean-green, man-eating plant musical that was scheduled to run January 15 to February 6 at the PACE Center in Parker. Producer August Stoten says the production will be rescheduled, but new dates have not yet been determined.

OTHER NEWS OF THE WEEK:

  • First local COVID theatre company fatality: After 10 years of offering donation-based live theatre, the Betsy Stage has become the first Colorado theatre company to permanently close in the wake of COVID. And because of the new COVID restrictions, the anticlimactic ending came a week early, as this weekend's closing performances of "Being Here" have been canceled. The Betsy Stage was also the home of its "Bitsy Stage" theatre for kids at 1137 S. Huron St. (Not to be confused with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (BETC), which phoentically is also referred to as "Betsy.") A message posted to the Betsy Stage website read, in part: "We have pulled the curtains down for good. While we are sorry we are not able to gather for that last hurrah, our only wish is that you and your loved ones remain healthy. And please, keep creating art!"
  • Full speed ahead in Johnstown: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse has announced its 2021-22 season, starting next September: "Peter Pan," "The Sound of Music," "Curtains," "Murder on the Orient Express," "Singin' in the Rain" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella."
Pivoting with ... Video Producer Ray Bailey through COVID and cancer

WHAT TO DO:

Here's the most current information we have on local theatre events that are happening now, or coming up before December 16. Please send any updates to culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

IN-PERSON ONLY:

Through December 23: The Polar Express Train Ride is a unique theatrical experience that recreates all the elements from the movie – including a train ride behind an authentic steam locomotive – as you travel from Golden to the North Pole to see Santa give out the first gift of Christmas. Remaining show dates are: November 20-22, 27-30; and December 2-6, 9-13, 16-23. On show nights, show begins at 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., with a pre-show starting approximately 40 minutes before departure. Tickets $95 per person ages 2 and up (and must be purchased in pairs); under 2 free. 17155 W. 44th Ave. Order here

Read our look back at the colorful history of The Barnstormers

ONLINE ONLY:

The BarnstormersAvailable November 20-27: Do you remember The Country Dinner Playhouse? More than 4.6 million theatregoers attended 200 plays and musicals at The Barn, as it was affectionately known in southwest Denver, from 1970-2007. When things were really cooking, the Playhouse drew 150,000 people every year while serving up country-style buffet to its loyal patrons. It has been 13 years since the Country Dinner Playhouse abruptly closed its doors. Among those put out of work were the beloved Barnstormers an octet of singers who provided the theater’s pre-show entertainment as well as table service for the audience. There were more than 100 individuals who had been Barnstormers over the years, many of whom have gone on to major carers on the stage and screen. Stephen Turner has gathered a sizeable percentage of them for an upcoming online reunion concert with 100 percent of the proceeds going to The Denver Actors Fund. “This year, The Barn would have celebrated 50 years of business,” said Turner, a Barnstormer from 2004-7. “Now seems like a great time for a reunion concert. The Denver Actors Fund is a great organization that has helped many of our friends in the local theater community. We want to help them any way we can, without putting ourselves or our friends in any danger.” The concert is available on demand through November 20. Minimum donation $10. Order here.

Fridays: Su Teatro presents “Short, Funny and Weird,” its weekly virtual series made up of skits, songs and short stories. It’s free, with a $10 suggested donation. 6:30 p.m. Order here

Through December 19: Buntport Theater re-teams with Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental for the Western premiere of the remote, live and interactive theatrical experience "Zoo Motel," written and performed by internationally acclaimed performance artists (and Denver East High School grad) Thaddeus Phillips (pictured at top of page). This is a live (yet remote), intimate and playful experience broadcast from a village in South America. Phillips describes "Zoo Motel" as a surreal play that has the feel of live theater and a movie simultaneously. By purchasing a ticket for "Zoo Motel," participants reserve one of 21 "rooms" in the imagined motel. They will then receive an email that will include  a printable room key, motel stationery, motel brochure and interactive set pieces. Watch for 360 tracking, quickly shifting perspectives, paintings of bizarre phone booths, a Japanese Maneki-Neko beckoning cat, a miniature Titanic and various other surprises. (Given the unique nature and logistics of this production, it is necessary to have a printer and print materials before the show.) Order here

Available now through November 23: Julia Tobey and Eugene Ebner present an uplifting, nearly all-Colorado video concert to launch her new Sublimelight Studios. The concert will be pre-recorded and dropped at 7 p.m. on October 23 on Sublimelight’s YouTube channel. The concert hosts are Grammy Award nominee Neyla Pekarek (formerly of The Lumineers), Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford (“You Can’t Take it With You”), three-time Emmy Award-winning composer Denise Gentilini, and Tony Award nominee Beth Malone (“Fun Home.”) Performers who sing or speak include Elizabeth Welch (“The Phantom of the Opera”), Gregory Treco (“Hamilton”), Jason Veasey (“The Lion King”), Josh Franklin (“The Prom”), Piper Lindsay Arpan (“Spamalot”), Shannan Steele, David Nehls, Robert Michael Sanders, Megan Van De Hey, Kenny Moten, Lauren Shealy, Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Jessica Hindsley, Lynzee and Chris Jones, Adriane and Marco Robinson, Julie Payne, Natalie Oliver-Atherton, Jennifer Condreay, Paul Page, Dixie Krystals, Shirley Delta Blow, Sophia Dotson, Evan Gibley, Hannah Katz, Abby Linderman, Eden Lane and Sue Leiser.  Ensembles performing include Black Iris Collective, Spinphony, The Beverly Belles and The Honey Taps. All in 90 minutes (!). The goal is to raise $75,000 to support Sublimelight, a new arts and wellness community set to open in Denver in 2021. Ten percent of proceeds will go to The Denver Actors Fund. Order here

Available now through December 25: Artist Lonnie Hanzon’s wildly popular "Camp Christmas" installation, which drew 70,000 to Stanley Marketplace last year, is coming back as a true online camp experience, with several levels of available experiences. “Campers” can sign up to receive up to five packages in the mail that will be part of an interactive, online experience. Hanzon will complement the experiment with a daily broadcast starting in December. More information

Available now through December 27: The Fine Arts Center at Colorado College resumes its original, 12-episode audio-play series “Of Spacious Skies,” focusing on the history of Colorado Springs. A new episode drops every Thursday through December 18. The latest: “Invasion!” by Jonathan Andujar and Jess Weaver. According to the episode guide: "They came 250 million miles from outer space to hold the world spellbound with new and startling powers from another planet." Read more Listen here

Read more: Arvada Center pivots to virtual holiday fare

Sunday, December 6: The Colorado Theatre Guild hosts a free Zoom workshop called "Puppetry Onstage" with Katy Williams where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about the world of thetarical puppetry. 7 p.m. Register here

Available November 20 through December 7: Ovation West offers “Evening of Opera": Music director and pianist Jordan Ortman leads four up-and-coming Denver opera singers through an evening of popular arias and musical-theatre selections. Order here

Monday, November 23: "Christmastown" is a huge seasonal festival that serves as a primary economic generator for eight towns in the south Cincinnati area. And each year, the senior class of Christmastown Senior High is tasked with producing an outdoor Christmas Eve Concert for the festival. The NextStage young-adult theatre company presents an online version of Tyler Phillips' new play, in which an unlikely group of detention-bound students work together to create the most bizarre event the town has ever seen. Order here

November 28 through January 3: While Miners Alley Playhouse cannot present its own annual staging of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," it will make available a virtual one-man performance of the classic tale starring Jefferson Mays. The Tony Award winner plays more than 50 roles in this master-class of a performance directed by Michael Arden. Tickets are $50, with $20 going to Miners Alley Playhouse if you  order here. Or you can order here and your donation will go instead to the Lake Dillon Theatre Company in Silverthorne.

November 28 through December 4: Parasol Arts' "The Seasons" is a unique artistic endeavor set in an art gallery on a Saturday night where a few tango couples have gathered to dance. Three strangers, inspired by the paintings, imagine different seasons of romantic relationships through dance. The resulting film is a collaboration between Mitch Dickman of Listen Productions and Parasol Arts’ Creative Director, Lorita Travaglia. Featuring Argentine tango stars Diana Cruz and Donato Juarez, along with Domenico Luciano, former principal dancer with Colorado Ballet. A viewing ticket is $15 and is available at ParasolArts.org

November 30 through December 27: The third title in the Arvada Center's fall radio-play series will be an original recording of the timeless Dylan Thomas holiday story "A Child's Christmas in Wales," starring real-life married couple Emily Van Fleet and Nathan Jones. Thomas wrote the piece for the radio in 1952 as an anecdotal reminiscence from the viewpoint of a young boy. The tale portrays a nostalgic and simpler time, invoking images of snowy country hillsides, warm fireside songs and lighthearted memories of idyllic holidays with family. Read more Order here

December 1-19: Miners Alley Playhouse presents a one-woman holiday show called "The Twelve Dates of Christmas." After seeing her fiancé kiss another woman at the televised Thanksgiving Day Parade, Mary stumbles back into the comic dating world, where it seems nothing can stem her growing cynicism – untl she meets a 5-year-old boy who brings her an unexpected new outlook on life and love. written by Gina Hoben, directed by Kate Gleason and starring Candace Joice. 303-935-3044. Order here

Family Tree. Photo by Leslie Simon. Jessica Austgen Geoffrey KentDecember 2-20: The Arvada Center will launch the world premiere of Jessica Austgen's innovative, made-for-online play, "The Family Tree: A Virtual Holiday Comedy" – and it will involve several participatory twists. The story will be broadcast live and in real time, with online audiences having several opportunities to "branch out" (hence the play's title) and follow the story from different characters' points of view. Read more. Order by phone at 720-898-7200.

Saturday, December 5: The Denver Center is one of 20 major nonprofit arts organizations offering access to a virtual concert series called “Live from the West Side: Women of Broadway,” which finishes up with actor/recording star Vanessa Williams. The concert will be presented in high-definition from the Shubert Virtual Studios on Manhattan’s West Side. At-home audience members will be invited to email questions, some of which will be answered in real time during the livestream. Tickets $30. Order here

Available starting Tuesday, December 8: Ovation West offers “A Charlie Brown Christmas," with the Patrick Lee Jazz Trio performing new arrangements of Vince Guaraldi’s fun tunes. Order here

David Corder as Jekyll Springs Ensemble Theatre December 9-20: Springs Ensemble Theatre presents Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson’s novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," the classic story exploring the evil that resides in all of us. Starring David Corder as Jekyll and  Cyndi Parr, Allyson Hackworth, Max Ferguson, and Matt Radcliffe sharing the role of Edward Hyde, the  shadow self who is willing to commit acts of violence and depravity that Jekyll cannot. Also featuring Bethany Kuçana, Amanda Trostad and Dalton Watson. Directed by Taylor Geiman. Performances will be available to stream on demand for a suggested donation of $25. Order here

Available December 13-15: The original Broadway cast of "Jagged Little Pill" will reunite in New York City for "Jagged Live in NYC: A Broadway Reunion Concert." It's a fundraiser for performing-arts organizations around the country impacted by COVID, including the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which will receive a portion of the proceeds. Directed by Diane Paulus and inspired by Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album. The show will be available to livestream at 6 p.m. on December 13, and will then be available to watch on demand for two more days. Tickets start at $27. Order here

Sir Peter Hall looks back at directing 'Tantalus' in Denver

Wednesday, December 16: The Denver Center hosts a viewing party for the virtual screening of "Tantalus: Behind the Mask," a 2 1/2-hour documentary that captures the drama and artistry that led to one of the milestone productions in theatre history – all right here in Denver. The 10-play Trojan War cycle took 17 years to write and six months to rehearse. The epic was presented 20 years ago by the DCPA Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Order here

Shelter Plays. Jeffrey NeumanOngoing: "The Shelter Plays" is described as "attention-deficit theatre" – 15 short plays by 12 local playwrights all concerning what it is like to exist in the time of COVID. Writers include Jeffrey Neuman, John Ashton and William Missouri Downs. Free. Watch here

Ongoing: Last month, the audio version of John Moore's play "Waiting for Obama" was dropped on all major streaming channels. Now, Broadway on Demand has licensed the videotape of that recording, and it is now available on demand. In the play, a Colorado Springs family is convinced that Barack Obama is coming for their guns in the final weeks of his presidency – and they’re right. The cast features Laurence Curry, Drew Horwitz, Chris Kendall, Leslie O’Carroll, Jenna Moll Reyes, Jessica Robblee, Luke Sorge and Mare Trevathan. It was recorded by the staff of Parker Arts. Ordering info here. The audio version play remains available for free listening on all major podcasting platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Podbean. Net revenues raised go directly to The Denver Actors Fund. 

Ongoing: This year, “Miscast,” the major annual fundraiser for The Denver Actors Fund, has pivoted to “CAST 2020,” a professionally produced on-demand video concert featuring Colorado theatre artists performing in roles they WERE cast to play before the coronavirus shut down their shows. “CAST 2020” includes nearly a dozen songs performed by an all-star lineup of Colorado theatre performers, including Mary Louise Lee performing “Mamma’s Turn,” from what would have been Vintage Theatre’s "Gypsy." Reserve your link here

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine during his time at The Denver Post. He also is the founder of The Denver Actors Fund, and is now contributing reports on the arts community for the Arvada Center. He's also the playwright of 'Waiting for Obama,' mentioned above. Reach him at culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Video bonus:

From IDEAs Stages: "OUTSPOKEN: Youth Voices of the Black Lives Matter Revolution." 

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