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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, Report from the Denver New Play Summit of February 2015
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
DENVER NOW THE MILE HIGH CITY IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE… *
SALUTING DONALD SEWALL AT 102:FOUNDER OF DENVER CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS *
CLIMBING THE DENVER NEW PLAY SUMMIT: BLIZZARD WARNINGS! *
NOT FOR REVIEW:PLAY READINGS THAT DO NOT NEED "PRODUCTION VALUES"… *
Jason Gray Platt's THE THERE THERE *
Eric Schmiedl's Adapation of Kent Haruf's Beloved Denver Novel: BENEDICTION [***] *
James Still's APPOGGIATURA [***] Forget about Death in Venice: Gordon Is Already Dead… *
DENVER NOW THE MILE HIGH CITY IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE…
Formerly, the Mile High City's Medical Marijuana Dispensaries were on the Fringes of the Corporate Core of Downtown Denver.
Now, Smart Pot Outlets are in the Heart of the City- not far from the Denver Center's New Play Summit.
But Security is Paramount: There are Separate Entrances for Medical Marijuana Users & for Recreational Marijuana Adventurers.
Now that Cannabis is Legal in Colorado, why is it considered Necessary to have Two Sales Points, both concealed behind what look like Electronically Operated Doors for Interrogation Chambers?
Obviously, you don't want any Smash & Grab Thieves having Easy Access.
But you also have to Divide the Sheep from the Goats: Medical Pot is Lightly Taxed, whereas Recreational Marijuana is Taxed Exponentially, becoming one of Colorado's Chief Cash Crops for State & City Coffers!
What's more, Marijuana Dispensaries are demonstrating Community Responsibility!
On the Freeway to the Teepee Tented Denver Airport, all along the Highway you will see a Procession of smart Green & White Signs: METRO CANNABIS.
At first, I thought this was an Ingenious Advertising Campaign, but it was explained to me that METRO CANNABIS cleaned that Section of the Freeway.
Good for Them! But it is still an Ingenious Advertising Campaign!
I had my ID scanned & entered the Cannabis Vaults, but I refrained from Purchasing Pot- either in Cookie Form or as "Shattered," a Term I had never before heard.
My Restraint was, I thought, Well Advised, because I wanted to Keep a Clear Head for the New Play Summit Offerings…
Could a Legendary Broadway Producer find a way to make Major Professional Theatre in the Metaphoric Shadow of the Rockies?
Yes! He could & he still can, but Don Sewall initially came out to Denver to save the Denver Post…
For Your Roving Arts Reporter, one of the Chief Attractions of coming out to Denver for the New Play Summit is being able to sit down with Don & remember Broadway's Golden Days.
Of course, I wasn't even yet born when Don first Made a Mark on The Great White Way, but- as a Theatre Historian & Chronicler: notably as Author of Twentieth Century Theatre, from Facts on File- I already knew of his varied Exploits & Triumphs.
At one time, I even presided over an Attic Suite of AIDART Offices in what was then the ANTA Theatre, under the Management of Broadway Producer Alfred de Liagre, a former partner of Don Sewall.
So, when I come out to the Mile High City, we admire the Portrait of Don's Late Wife, the distinguished & beloved actress Eugenia Rawls, who has a Banquet Room named for her at Sardi's: The Eugenia Room!
There is also a Eugenia Room in the Denver Center, but Don's Office is resplendent as well with Portraits of such Stars as Tallulah Bankhead, Lynn Fontanne, & Alfred Lunt.
Indeed, almost the First Memory that Don shared with me in Late February was a Project with Alfred & Lynn, for whom a Broadway Theatre is still named…
Broadway Theatres have such a History of Name Changes, however.
The Alvin Theatre became the Neil Simon Theatre. Neil Simon? Wasn't he once a Prize Winning Playwright?
As for the ANTA Theatre, it was built for the Theatre Guild, once famed for producing Major European Dramas at the then Guild Theatre.
When the Guild faded, its Playhouse was transferred to the American National Theatre & Academy- ANTA.
Later, a New Owner named it the Virginia Theatre, after his wife, Virginia.
Today, it is the August Wilson Theatre. But Tomorrow…
As for AIDART, this was the Advanced Institute for Development of American Regional Theatre, of which I was then the Titular Director.
AIDART no longer exists.
Even some Regional Theatres are having Survival Problems: The Internet may soon make Live Theatre a Fond Memory.
See Shows on your Smart Phone!
But Don Sewall- still Mentally Sharp & Sharply Attired at 102- knows that there's Nothing Like Show Business & it's Alive & Well in Denver!
A Major Reason that Donald Sewall is still the Good Shepherd for the Denver Center is the Vibrant Judi Wolf, who is always at his side to make sure All's Well.
Judi- striking in Bright Red on Industry Weekend- even has a Costume Column in the Denver Center's Season Program: Applause.
Multiple Bravos, Don & Judi!
It was Blizzard Season in Manhattan & Scott Bennett & I had just escaped from a Blinding Blizzard in the Atlas Mountains of Romantic Morocco.
So I was hoping for some Fair Weather in Denver, where the Sun is usually Shining, even in February.
No Luck! Snow swirled outside our 14th Floor Hilton Honors Suite as we prepared to Slog Over from the Trendy Curtis Hotel to the Massive Complex of Theatres that is the Denver Center.
Cold as it was, someone managed to have the Air Conditioning blasting away during Performances.
This Chill Effect reminded me of that Famous Aria, Nessun Dorma: Nobody Sleeps…
One of the Chief Attractions of the Festival Summit in Previous Seasons has always been a Shakespeare Staging by Artistic Director Kent Thompson, who Earned His Spurs at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
This Time Out?
No Luck! There was a Musical Show called Cinderella advertised for the Main Stage.
I'd seen this on Broadway some time ago, so I knew it was a Long Way Off from The Bard of Stratford Upon Avon.
Visiting Drama Critics were repeatedly reminded not only to Shut Off Cell Phones but also to refrain from Reviewing the Play Readings, as these Scripts were still Works in Progress.
Indeed, I found myself sitting right next to a Woman Playwright- Plays by Woman Playwrights were the Centerpiece of the Play Readings- who was frantically scribbling in the Margins of Her Script.
The Woman Playwrights even had a Group Photo made For the Record! Of course, there were Selfies galore…
At the Denver Center's New Play Summit, there are usually Four or more Play Readings of New Scripts, Two of which will be chosen for Full Stage Production the Following Season.
Oddly Enough, sometimes the Scripts are more effective in Readings than they are in Full Productions.
When they are decked out with Sets, Costumes, & Lighting, sometimes Something Important is Lost…
So Called "Production Values" often Draw Attention Away from the Clash of Characters & the Full Flush of Human Emotions.
In the Denver Play Readings- seen & heard up close in Intimate Venues- Actor/Readers usually use a Full Range of Facial Gestures, Body Language, & Vocal/Verbal Interpretation to bring Characters, Confrontations, & Narratives to Vibrant Life.
Sometimes, the Actor/Readers may be so effective that other Actor/Readers- Waiting Their Turns on a Rear Row of Chairs- respond directly & immediately, Smiling, Chuckling, Gasping, even Tearing Up.
Considering that they all have Script Copies & have been rehearsing the Readings, this is surely not a First Time Experience?
When a Winning Reading achieves a Denver Production, sometimes there is a Real Loss of Impact.
If there is a Fireplace with what looks like a Real Fire- or Dazzling Drapes at the Upstage Windows- they offer Disengaged Audiences an Excuse not to focus on the Stage Action:
"Look! Look! That's actual Hot Water coming out of the Kitchen Faucet!"
With Play Readings, you really do have to Pay Attention!
But, some seasons ago, when I shared a Downtown Denver Shuttle with Fellow Critic Jeffrey Eric Jenkins- who was then also Editor of the Best Plays Series- Theresa Rebeck was complaining to Jeffrey that Critics were criticizing her Plays unfairly.
I felt moved to tell her that I had certainly Given Good Critiques, especially for Omnium Gatherum.
Gertrude Stein Once Said It of Oakland, CA: "There's No There There…"
No, No! This is Not A Review!
But watch out for Innovative Technology in the 21st Century!
Our World is changing very fast…
TWO OF LAST YEAR'S PLAY READINGS RETURN WITH "PRODUCTION VALUES"…
Because the Denver Center's Previous Press Lady had for, some reason, Taken a Disliking to Your Roving Arts Reporter, Scott Bennett & I were Not Invited to the New Play Summit in 2014, so I have No Idea how the Two Play Reading Scripts chosen for Full Stage Production actually worked w/o Production Values.
An Angry Old Man Takes Long Time Dying in Kent Haruf's Beloved Denver Area Novel…
After all, this is a Denver Theatre Festival- with primarily Denver Area Audiences- so it is Understandable that Director Kent Thompson would want to bring Benediction to the Denver Stage.
The Problem- at least for Out of Towners- is that most of the Small Town Characters in Benediction are either Already Familiar from the Novels of John Steinbeck or from TV Series about Folks in Small Towns.
There's an Additional Problem, however: Benediction takes Three Long Hours to Tell Its Story.
Most of the Characters- if not Types- are at least somewhat Predictable- especially for Anyone who has grown up in or near a Small Town.
Yes, there is a Crusty Old Man who finds it Hard to Forgive an Errant Black Sheep Son, who May Be Gay…
But he is there, lying on His Deathbed, for Three Hours!
One Gets the Message Early On.
But this is really a Women's Play, with some wonderfully Tart, Amusing, & Insightful Mothers, Daughters, & Grannies, all trying to Survive somehow…
One Visually Striking Scene has Three Generations of Women- Four Women, in fact- standing around a Horse Watering Basin, dipping their Hair into the water, then throwing their Drenched Heads back in Sync, so Four Great Plumes of Water Drops fly out toward the Arena Audience.
All the Actors were Admirable, but one had the sense of watching a very Long Pilot for a Middle American TV Series.
His Ex Wife Widow & HS Algebra Teacher Lover Mourn Him on The Grand Canal-
With Musical Accompaniment, No Less!
No, the Unforgettable Gordon did not die in Venice, but it's the Magical City that his Ex Wife, Helen, has chosen for some Meditations & Remembrances, for they were once Young & Newly Married, on a Honeymoon in Venice
She has invited "Aunt Chuck"- the Male Life Partner for whom Gordon left her Loving Arms- to come along, as well as her Granddaughter, Sylvie.
The Stage Action- devised by Director Risa Brainin- moves backward & forward, intercutting Past & Present.
The Previous Season's Play Reading must have been indeed confusing, for what was shown on stage was often baffling to Your Roving Arts Reporter.
There was Metaphorical Appoggiatura as well as Actual Appoggiatura, as a Strolling Musical Trio accompanied the Action, wandering about the Venice Inflected Stage Environment.
This was a Commissioned Work, partly inspired by Playwright James Still's Mystical Encounters with his Great Grandfather when he was living in Lucca, Italy.
Had he chosen Reggio Emilia or Salsamaggiore for his Italianate Hideaway, who knows what Ingenioous Plots he might have developed?
Alas, for Your Roving Arts Reporter, this Vision & Production were entirely Too Fey…
But it was interesting to see some Projections of the Eminently Photographable "Queen of the Adriatic" imposed on a Baroque Venetian Façade, with No Door or Window alike…
Having once taught Our Troops in the 1950s, in Not Too Distant Verona, I came to know the Serenissima fairly well, often returning to Photograph Architectural Details for INFOTOGRAPHY™.
Curiously, my Most Recent Trip down the Grand Canal was made in company with Richard Hay, Ashland Shakespeare's Chief Designer & Theatre Architect.
Douglas Langworthy- who was Dramaturg for Appoggiatura- is also a Veteran of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival!
But my Most Recent Memory of Venedig- where both Richard Wagner & Leland Stanford, Jr, died, but Not at the Same Time- is of our Gondolier dropping my Suitcase, filled with Cameras & Exposed Film, into the Grand Canal.
Fortunately, the Big Black Bag slowly rose to the Surface, near the Bridge of Sighs…
Copyright © Glenn Loney 20015. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney Arts Rambles." Reproduction rights please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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