By John Moore
Chay Yew, director of the Denver Center Theatre Company’s “black odyssey,” understands the “Hyphenated American” — he even wrote a collection of plays by that name. Born in Singapore and now running the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, Yew is perhaps uniquely situated to understand other hyphenated Americans whose stories remain half-told … and half-heard.
“We have so much catching up to do,” said Yew. “We have so much to learn.”
Because of the country’s rapidly changing ethnic makeup, Yew said, “Race is no longer that siloed here. To be an American is a reflection of all of its diversities.” Or should be.
By John Moore
How did they do that?
It took a month and almost 300 crew hours for the Denver Center Theatre Company tech team to convert an oversized 1972 Cadillac into a modified Superfly Coupe de Ville — that could fit into the Space Theatre for the world premiere of Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, playing through Feb. 16. And we saw it all. … OK, most of it. Enjoy this fun peek into a part of the playmaking process you’d never expect.
Video by John Moore, with Assistant Technical Director Josh Prues. Thanks: Louis Fernandez, Charlie Dallas, Jana Mitchell, Chay Yew, Bob Orzolek, Lisa Orzolek, Rachel Ducat, Paul Behrhorst and the entire Denver Center tech shop.
Black odyssey plays daily except for Mondays in the Space Theatre, Call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center ticketing page.
In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 51: Meet the esteemed Kim Staunton, who most recently appeared in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” last season. She is now playing three roles in the world-premiere drama, “black odyssey.” Marcus Gardley inventively recasts Homer’s “The Odyssey” as a means to bridge generations of black history. It performs through Feb. 16 in the Space Theatre. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore. Run time: 3 minutes, 45 seconds.
Note: KIm Staunton will be John Moore’s guest for an hour of conversation at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at our next LoDo Page 2 Stage event. It’s free and open to the public. Click here for more information.
By John Moore
It has been three years since the death of Israel Hicks, but Denver Center Theatre Company actor Kim Staunton still misses the renowned director every day.
Many Denver Center audiences know Hicks made history with the Denver Center Theatre Company in 2009, when he became the first director in the world to helm August Wilson’s entire 10-play, 10-decade exploration of the black experience in America for the same theater company. Staunton was cast by Hicks in many of those Denver Center productions. But most don’t know Staunton’s association with Hicks actually goes all the way back to high school.
Dr. Vincent G. Harding (center), civil-rights leader, teacher, scholar, engaged citizen, and seeker, is especially noted for his decades of social justice work, as well as his close association with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is joined by “black odyssey” playwright Marcus Gardley, left, and director Chay Yew. Other opening-night guests included Art Jones and artist.
By John Moore
Last night was the opening performance of the world premiere play black odyssey by Marcus Gardley. This Denver Center Theatre Company commission uses Homer’s The Odyssey as a framework for exploring generations of African-American history up to the present day. The cast includes Jason Bowen, Tony Todd, Cleavant Derricks, Kim Staunton, Eric Lockley, Brenda Pressley, Shamika Cotton, Eugene Fleming and Sequoiah Hippolyte, and plays through Feb. 16 in the Space Theatre. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org. Photos by John Moore.
We’re putting all the pieces in place for tonight’s opening performance of the world premiere play black odyssey. This Denver Center commission uses Homer’s The Odyssey as a framework for exploring generations of African-American history up to the present day. It stars Tony Todd, Cleavant Derricks and Kim Staunton and plays through Feb. 16 in the Space Theatre. Call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center’s ticketing page. Photo by John Moore. To see our production photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen, click here.
With his play black odyssey, Marcus Gardley has chosen an abiding Greek myth to enlighten us on the modern tribulations of an African American Ulysses
BY DOUGLAS LANGWORTHY
Every element of Marcus Gardley’s plays are infused with his poetic voice. Be it his titles (the road weeps, the well runs dry), his heightened language or his stage directions (He guides the cane to a star. It burns like a comet), there is no mistaking the poet in the playwright.
Gardley started his career writing poetry and has expanded his poetic style through his dramatic writing. In fact, all of his favorite playwrights are also poets. So what is a director supposed to do with a stage direction like the example given above?
One of the fun ongoing stories we’ll be telling you about the Denver Center Theatre Company’s upcoming world premiere production of ‘black odyssey’ is how our tech experts (texperts?) transform this blue 1971 Cadillac coup deville into a gold vessel that you will have to see to believe. Stay tuned. We’ll be telling you how it happens in photos, words and video. The play opens for previews on Jan. 17.
By Marcus Gardley; directed by Chay Yew
Today was the first day of rehearsal for the Denver Center Theatre Company’s world premiere of playwright Marcus Gardley’s “black odyssey.” It magically recasts Homer’s Odysseus as a black soldier returning home from the Gulf War. The play runs from Jan. 17 through Feb. 16 in the Space Theatre.
From left: music composer Jaret Landon Williams, lighting designer Charles MacLeod, director of new-play development Bruce K. Sevy, Gardley and director Chay Yew. Call 303-894-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org.
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.
Denver Center commissioned playwright Marcus Gardley regaled and moved a standing-room-only crowd at the eighth annual Colorado New Play Summit.
The 200+ guests were drawn into his play, black odyssey, a magical retelling of Homer’s Odyssey told through the African American experience.
The great Greek archetypes blend myth and history into modern reality as the characters slip and slide through time. Great Grand Daddy Deus masterfully manipulates the players while Great Aunt Tina intervenes to protect Ulysses from his vengeful Uncle Sidin.
Ripped apart by war, Nella Pee and Ulysses seek to reunite while moving through the rough streets of Harlem, the Iran/Iraq war, the Civil Rights Movement and the rift between the North and the South. The audience is draw through time as the cast weaves together fact and fiction to create a fabric that is a vibrant retelling of Zeus, Poseidon and Ulysses.
Nella and Ulysses move separately through the play but on parallel journeys as they flee to escape persecution and run toward salvation — the salvation found in peace, family and love.
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.