10:58AM

Denver: Sunshine and Theater

Twelve months ago I was in Denver, an excellent change of pace from Cincinnati’s grey winter. Sure, it’s cold in Denver, but the sun shines here more than 300 days a year. We miss that in Ohio for months at a time. My initial motivation for coming was a visit with my wife’s sister’s family who recently moved to Boulder. But for several years I had received notices about the Colorado New Play Summit at Denver Center Theatre Company (DCTC), so I suggested travel to Denver at the same time as the Summit.

The 2009 event provided many more rays of sunshine as I listened to new scripts being read and saw productions of two shows that had been presented in readings the year before. Michele Lowe’s Inana was a very thoughtful piece about art and loyalty (set in Iraq), and I discovered that Lowe would bring a new work, Victoria Musica, to the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park for a fall premiere. The chance to chat with her — and other writers — was an added benefit of attending.

I listened to a panel discussion with theater professionals dedicated to the cultivation of new works. I appreciated their perspective, but I was concerned to hear several of them speak of critics as if we were the enemy. Most critics I know are champions of theater in general and love to foster the development of new writers and their scripts. After all, the American Theatre Critics Association annually recognizes at least five writers whose works are not yet on the radar of many theatergoers.

I chatted with Jim Steinberg, a DCTC trustee as well as the liaison with the Steinberg Trust that provides ATCA with $40,000 annually to disburse to playwrights for their work. He suggested that ATCA bring its members to Denver for a Summit in subsequent years. A conversation with DCTC’s artistic director Kent Thompson revealed his interest in the same notion. I said I’d like to help assemble a panel of critics, and Kent liked that idea.

More sunshine in May 2009, this time at ATCA’s annual meeting in Sarasota, when I shared the offer from DCTC with the association’s executive committee to host a mid-winter conference in Denver. The idea was greeted warmly — Sarasota had a way of putting everyone in a good mood, it seemed — and plans began in earnest.

Having escaped a harsh snowstorm and temperatures in the teens in Cincinnati on Feb. 10, 2010, I am so glad to have made the effort to pull together this gathering in Denver — where the sun is still shining. I’m glad to see so many ATCA colleagues here, and to know that they’ll spread the word about this exciting theatrical event.

Rick Pender, Cincinnati CityBeat, The Sondheim Review and a past ATCA chair.