By John Moore
Set in the high plains of Eastern Colorado, Benediction completes the trilogy of playwright Eric Schmiedl’s stage adaptations of the popular novels by Kent Haruf.
Following Plainsong and Eventide, Benediction introduces audiences to new characters at the crossroads in the fictional town of Holt. Among them are dying old man who dreams of a reconciliation with a son he violently chased out of town more than 30 years before; a young orphan girl who is befriended by an elderly woman and her daughter; and a renegade big-city teacher who has been banished to Holt with his unhappy family.
While playing with the narrative form — Schmiedl largely sets aside the direct-address that marked his first two stage productions — there is something deeply familiar and resonating with the continuation of this Denver Center tradition. Though the characters are knew, the feeling is familiar.
Director Kent Thompson, whose commitment to bringing Haruf’s works to the stage dates back to 2006, describes Benediction as “an Our Town for our times.”
Here’s our inside look at the making of this epic new work that rounds out the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit.
Featured in this video are Schmiedl and a cast of more than 15, including Mile Hartman, Joyce Cohen, Brian Shea, Lynnda Ferguson, Billie McBride, Tara Falk, Michael Santo and Tricia Moreland.
Favorite line: Lorraine: “You are not afraid … to be alone with him?”
Mary: “Oh, honey. This is my husband. I’ve been with this man most of my life. I know him better than I know anybody else in the world. There’s nothing here to scare me.”
Video by John Moore.
Please enjoy our other 2014 Summit Spotlight videos:
By John Moore
Today, we continue “Summit Soliloquies,” a week-long video series leading up to the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit. Here, playwrights past and present talk to you about writing, the Denver Center, the Summit and more.
Part 7: Eric Schmiedl, whose “Plainsong Trilogy” culminates with his adaptation of acclaimed novelist Kent Haruf’s “Benediction,” which will be read at the 2014 Summit at noon on Sunday, Feb. 9 in the Space Theatre.
"Victory Jones" Director Wendy C. Goldberg and actor Ben Morrow
By John Moore
The 2014 Colorado New Play Summit opens Friday, but the work began in earnest today as the casts and creative teams for all five new readings gathered, met … and got to work.
Now in its ninth year, the Colorado New Play Summit has become one of the most important new-play festivals in America. Last year, four Summit readings earned their way onto the 2013-14 season.
Jamie Ann Romero and Quincy Dunn-Baker read “The Legend of Georgia McBride” at the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by Kyle Malone.
By John Moore
The Denver Center Theatre Company’s 9th annual Colorado New Play Summit will include a reading based on the novel Benediction, completing author Kent Haruf’s trilogy of rural Colorado tales, all adapted for the stage by Eric Schmiedl.
The Colorado New Play Summit previously introduced Haruf’s “Plainsong” in 2007 and “Eventide” in 2009, both of which went on to full productions on Denver Center mainstage seasons.
Following two exciting new play readings, our guests headed into the world premiere of TWO THINGS YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT AT DINNER. One of the most exhilarating aspects of a new play festival is when you can see the play’s development from a reading one year to a full production in a subsequent year.
That’s what we experienced with Lisa Loomer’s play about how the taboo topics of religion and politics can threaten relationships. How will it change? Will it match how you imagined it? Will you be disappointed or surprised? The sense of wonder is all around us and we dive in.
Following the well received play, we all piled into The Jones Theatre for the late-night and immensely popular PLAYWRIGHTS’ SLAM. Think of a poetry reading. Playwrights regale audiences with excerpts of pieces in development. Participants include:
Samuel D. Hunter Lisa Loomer Lauren Feldman Michael Mitnick Richard Dresser Jeffrey Haddow Karen Zacarias Marcus Gardley Eric Schmiedl Kirsten Greenidge
Samuel D. Hunter
Eric SchmiedlLucianne LaJoie
Spirits are high and the crowd is loving it. What a great way to end the first day of our readings!
Wow! A combined 125 hours of rehearsal have been put into preparing for our COLORADO NEW PLAY SUMMIT, which begins tomorrow! Plus we are officially SOLD OUT. (If you want to come and don’t have a ticket, you are still encouraged to head down and check for available seats.) But at this point we have DOUBLED the number of “industry” representatives over last year.
PLAYWRIGHTS who are expected to attend include: Jeff Carey, Steven Cole Hughes, Terry Dodd, Richard Dresser, Lauren Eason, Lauren Feldman, Marcus Gardley, Judy GeBauer, Kirsten Greenidge, Jeffrey Haddow, Neal Hampton (composer), Samuel D. Hunter, Luciann Lajoie, Carter Lewis, Leslie Lewis, Felice Locker, Lisa Loomer, Robert McAndrew, William Missouri-Downs, Michael Mitnick, Steve Moulds, Henry Murray, Philip Penningrot, Max Posner, Theresa Rebeck, Eric Schmiedl, Helen Thorpe and Karen Zacarias.
DIRECTORS expected to attend include Hal Brooks, Sam Buntrock, Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Mike Donahue, Pam MacKinnon, Art Manke, Christy Montour-Larson, Ethyl Will (music) and Justin Zsebe.
THEATRES represented include Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Contemporary American Theatre, Creede Repertory Theatre, Curious Theatre Company, Dallas Theatre Center, Indiana Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Lincoln Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, New Dramatists, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Primary Stages, Page 73, Soho Rep, South Coast Rep and Third Law Dance Theatre.
Our New Play Summit is relatively new compared with others around the country. Now in our seventh year and under the leadership of Artistic Director Kent Thompson and New Play Development Director Bruce Sevy, we have quickly created a new play festival that is attracting attention. National Public Radio is continuing its interest. American Theatre magazine will cover the festival. And we’re delighted that the American Theatre Critics Association will once again hold its Winter meeting to coincide with our event.
Despite the long days and intense work, there is a feeling of anticipation as everyone gets ready to welcome our local and national guests. The excitement is palpable! We will see what tomorrow brings.