ATCA Event Blog (Archive)


Denver: The Play(wright)'s the Thing

At a jovial all-comers dinner Friday, Denver Theater Center’s artistic drector Kent Thompson introduced all the playwrights in the throng — two whose plays have having full world premieres, four getting well rehearsed readings, several others under current commission, some alumni of previous CNPS’s, and more, and more. As they stood all around and among us, it was a dizzying array of talent, the present and future of the American theater. And later that night, when a group of them read short excerpts from current work at the “playwrights slam,” it struck me that the real drama wasn’t so much the intriguing, pungent, funny excerpts from work in progress so much as the personalities of the playwrights themselves, doing what we seldom see them do, invested in their work, performing it. The Dencer Center Theater knows what theater is all about: the playwright.

Chris Rawson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Crossing the Mountains to Denver

Because I live in Salt Lake City, I’m probably the ATCA member closest to Denver, yet ironically — and sadly — I’ve only managed to make it over to the Denver Center Theatre once before. That occasion was the monumental RSC production of “Tantalus,” which was staged over a three-day period several years ago. I was impressed with the layout of the theater complex and the diversity of the plays staged there and have meant to return ever since. I’ve also heard good things about the Colorado New Play Summit, but somehow I haven’t managed to make it back until now.

My first day in Denver gave me an opportunity to unify two strands of my life that don’t often coincide: film and theater. I am staying with a friend, Eileen O’Brien, who works at the Denver Film Society. Eileen
and I first became friends when she boarded with me 10 years ago when she came to Salt Lake City to work for the Sundance Film Festival, where I have edited and written capsules for the film guide and catalog since what seems like the dawn of time. So I spent the early part of the day getting an insider’s view of the Film Society and discussing this year’s Sundance films with a couple of people who just came back from the festival, which just concluded two weeks ago and where I crammed about 30 films into a 10-day period. Then I got to take Eileen with me to see the Denver Theatre Center’s production of “When Tang Met Laika” about American and Russian joint ventures into space over the past few decades. We were both impressed with the innovativeness of the staging and the wonderful intimacy of the Space Theatre, where the production is being staged—just another aspect of the tension between outer and inner space that is so integral to the play. It was a very full and enjoyable day.

Today was the first full day of play readings, and there were two things that will certainly make me want to return to the New Play Summit in future years. The first is the quality of the work being read, which is very polished and professional. The second is the vitality of the readings, which are performed with energy and expertise by a very dynamic group of actors. I’m looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.

Barbara Bannon, ATCA Secretary, Salt Lake Tribune


Denver: Theater from Space

I have a thing for intriguing lobby displays, the kind put together for a particular show and that add something to the experience. For last night’s performance of When Tang Met Laika, a play about space flight (among other things) which takes place on the space station (among other places), the lobby display was particularly apropos -– it consisted of quotes from astronauts and cosmonauts about the view from orbit. Perhaps it was because I started the day shoveling snow to get underway from Washington where we’ve had an historic blizzard, but the one quote that struck me most forcefully was:

“We were flying over America and suddenly I saw snow. The first snow we ever saw from orbit. I have never visited America. But I imagined that the arrival of Autumn and Winter is the same there as in any other place and the process of getting ready for them is the same. And then it struck me that we are all children of our earth.” — Cosmonaut Aleksandr Alexandrov, Soyuz T T-9, Soyuk T-13.

Brad Hathaway, ATCA excom, Washington, D.C.


Denver: Art and nourishment

After our first half-day in Denver, we are already grateful to Rick Pender  (see his post below) and the leaders of the Denver Center Theater for bringing us to the Colorado New Play Summit. The opening attraction was Rogelio Martinez’ ambitious new play, When Tang Met Laika, a sprawling drama of Russian-American collaboration in space that takes on world politics, national differences, man’s urge to transcend historic limitations and, of course, love and the vagaries of the human heart — far too much to tackle in a five minute blog! The play has some of the texture and ambition of Tony Kushner — high praise. But I write now to priase the after party, full of theater people and critics (who are, after all, also theater people), not to mention the little dog who played Laika, plus lots of good food and drink. The CNPS is off to a great start. And now I have to hustle to an ATCA excom meeting.

Chris Rawson, ATCA chair, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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.


Denver: Where’s the snow?

For those of us from the northeast (NYC, Pittsburgh, D.C.), having shoveled our way through 2 feet of snow and more to get to airports that have just resumed operation, this high plain amid the Rockies is suspiciously barren of the white stuff. Not that we’re complaining! This afternoon, Feb. 11, we early arrivals on the ATCA excom and Foundation board will meet to deal with finances and all that, then the Colorado New Play Summit begins tonight. I hope to pursuade others to join in on a group blog, the first on our new website.

Chris Rawson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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