Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Bold, The Young, and The Murdered

Playwright:  Don Zolidis

Venue:  Funky Little Theater, 2109 Templeton Gap, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Running time:  2 hours, 25 minutes (includes 10 minute intermission).

Date of Performance:  Friday, October 28, 2016 (opening night). 

Funky’s current production of The Bold, The Young, and the Murdered (hereafter The BYM) is a comedy/mystery mashup, but with the emphasis on comedy.  Set in the studio where The Bold and the Young soap opera is produced, The BYM starts with an eye opening and very funny taping of an episode.  Oli, the director (Kaitlin Porter) is rude, cruel, and never satisfied.  “Valencio” (John Zincone) is suave and debonaire on set, but between scenes he’s a demanding diva. “Jessica” (Ambrosia Feess) is devoted and perky when she’s acting, and BFF's with Bill and Keri when she's herself (Danielle).  

This is a cast of 13, the largest ever on the Funky stage.  It turns out that each of the characters has a job to do and an agenda that makes the job much harder.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, the cast dwindles as a string of murders occurs while they are in an all night taping session.  The first one to go?  The director.  She not only doesn’t have a friend in the room; she probably doesn’t have a friend in the world.  Kaitlin Porter is bad here in a good way.  She makes herself so rude and obnoxious that she merits being first to make an early exit.

The all night taping session is a result of the producer, Mary (Teri McClintock) threatening to shut the whole show down if they don’t produce a decent episode in the next 24 hours.  The heat is on, the nerves are frayed, and the body count keeps climbing.  

The first act is heavy on the comedy.  The second act bogs down a tad in the (justified) fear and confusion of multiple murders.  Someone in the room is committing them, but who?  Everyone seems to have a motive.  I’m not that good at mysteries, so I really had no clue until the case was resolved.  If mysteries are your genre, you may figure it out before it’s over.

There are some standout performances, and not all of them make it to the final curtain.  Desiree Myers (Lily/“Sequoia”) is in the latter category, taking a knife in the back when she least expects it.  Myers is bold, brash, and seemingly unstoppable until her abrupt demise.  Dylan McClintock (Morris/“Jake”) is spot on as an insecure actor with body issues.  Dave Gallo (Tyler/“William”) is the self absorbed guy from central casting with more ego than talent.  Sallie Walker (Cybil/“Mona”) has been around forever, knows everything, and still thinks the show is all about her.  Luke Schoenemann (Bill/“Sebastian”) is The Bold and Young’s gift to women, nearly all of whom have opened that gift at one time or another.  Kim Bennett (Amy/"Eileen") is older and wiser than most of her colleagues, and she springs a surprise on them before it's all over.

Chelsie Bennett (Keri) has the plum role here, and she uses it to make a big splash on a crowded stage.  Keri is the perky but insufferable intern on her first day of work.  Bennett mixes innocence with deviousness, making Keri a perfect fit for the dysfunctional cast and crew.  She inserts just the right amount of idealism into the jaded “professional” group that creates The BYM.  Just like the others, Keri has her own agenda, and Bennett shows us how a wide eyed intern can be a destabilizing force of nature.  

Director/Set Designer Chris Medina pushes the production with a large cast and a complicated set in a very small space.  With creative blocking, the cast never overwhelms the stage.  Medina’s set functions well for various locations.  His crew moves set pieces on and off stage quickly, flowing from a living room to a hospital room in a blink of an eye.  

The BYM is not Shakespeare, but it’s entertaining and engaging.  You’ll laugh at the pointed parody of producing a soap opera, and you’ll wonder about who in the cast is taking out his or her competition.  You’ll also be reminded that actors are, well, actors.  When they take the stage, everything they do and say is carefully scripted.  When they walk off the stage, they become real people.  Remember that.  Actors are rarely like the people they portray.  Sometimes they’re better, and sometimes they’re not.  In that respect, they are just like the rest of us, except that they get to be someone else from time to time.


This show closes on November 12, 2016.  This show is appropriate for teens and up.

Where I have identified the actor’s roles above, the name in parentheses is the role that character plays in The Bold and the Young soap opera.  For example, Luke Schoenemann (Bill/“Sebastian”) indicates that Mr. Schoenemann is the actor playing the actor Bill whose soap opera role is “Sebastian.”

For those who saw John Zincone in Stocking Stuffers last year at Springs Ensemble Theatre, you’ll be pleased to learn that he still has excellent taste in footwear.  

Photo Credit:  Funky Little Theater



Director:  Chris Medina

Scenic Design:  Chris Medina

Lighting Design:  Dylan McClintock

Original Music and Sound Design:  Chad Orr

Costume Design:  Delaney Hallauer

Props:  Ashley Gee

Stage Manager:  Ashley Gee/Will Sobolik


Morris/“Jake”:  Justin Anderson (alternates with Dylan McClintock)

Morris/“Jake”:  Dylan McClintock (alternates with Justin Anderson)

Keri: Chelsie Bennett

Amy/“Eileen”:  Kim Bennett

Kaitlin:  America Copeland

Danielle/“Jessica”:  Ambrosia Feess

Tyler/“William”:  Dave Gallo

Louis:  Joshua Hsi

Lily/“Sequoia”DesirĂ©e Myers

Oli:  Kaitlin Porter

Bill/“Sebastian”Luke Schoenemann

Cybil/“Mona”:  Sallie Walker

John/“Valencio”:  John Zincone

Friday, October 21, 2016

THESPIANA...New Play Festival

I thought I was pretty plugged in to the Colorado Springs theater community.  I was wrong.  

Somehow Thespiana 2016 got by me…it happened last February 27-28 at the Cottonwood Center for the ArtsThespiana is a new play festival of sorts, drawing most of the entries from The Drama Lab, which is calling itself “the best little playwriting group in Colorado Springs.”

I missed the Thespiana 2016 play readings, but I’ve already calendared the 2017 version (with five brand new plays) on February 25-26.  Tickets will be available after December 1.  Both dates will be the same scripts; the Saturday show repeats on Sunday.

Full house at Thespiana 2016.
This early notice may be helpful; the 2016 event packed the Cottonwood with two sold out performances.  Not bad for a “little” playwriting group event with just "word of mouth" advertising (and some email blasts to friends and acquaintances and a couple of radio interiews).  It was listed as a Facebook event, but it never hit my Facebook page.  I think the Cottonwood seats about 75 per show, so it’s impressive that about 150 people turned out for new work by local playwrights with virtually no advertising.

I met recently with Chuck Cabell and Jeff Schmoyer (both of whom had works featured at Thespiana), to discuss their goals for the 2016 event, as well as their plans for 2017.  “There are two goals for Thespiana,” according to Cabell.  “One is to bring focus and attention to local writers, directors and actors, and the second is to have fun.”  The 2016 event was a roaring success for both goals.

The 2017 event is already coming into focus.  According to Chuck and Jeff, the new works have already been selected.  Chuck will be the producer again this year, and will have an entry in the program, as will Jeff.  In addition, plays will include work by Warren Epstein, Phil Ginsburg and the team of Mark & Lauren Arnest,.  The directors will be named in the near future.  The readings will be rehearsed and feature local actors.  Just so you know…one of the goals at the next event will be the same as last year:  HAVE FUN.

Local actors Elizabeth Khan, Greg Lanning, Mike Miller, and 
Sally Walker at Thespiana 2016.
Heads up to all who are interested in writing, producing and seeing new work.  Thespaiana 2017 is headed your way.  I’ll update this post with additional information as it becomes available.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Elephant Man

Playwright:  Bernard Pomerance

Venue:  Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 East Cache La Poudre Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Running time:  2 hours, 20 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).

Date of Performance:  Thursday, October 13, 2016 (opening night). 

Springs Ensemble Theatre (SET) has a winner-The Elephant Man is a gorgeous script given a sensitive, profound production.  There are many lessons embedded in The Elephant Man, and SET nails the most important one:  beauty is more than skin deep.  

The Elephant Man is the tragically true story of Joseph Merrick, a 19th century British citizen who suffered severe deformities.  Merrick was both a friend and patient of surgeon Frederick Treves, who treated him at the London Hospital.  Treves wrote of Merrick’s deformities:  ”(Merrick is) the most disgusting specimen of humanity that I had ever seen ... at no time had I met with such a degraded or perverted version of a human being as this lone figure displayed."

Despite his hideous appearance, Treves realized that while Merrick looked like a beast, there was a sensitive human being underneath.  Often mischaracterized as an imbecile, Merrick was intelligent, curious, and frightened.  

Bernard Pomerance put Merrick’s story on a Broadway stage in 1979 and won the Tony Award for Best Play that year.  Pomerance’s script was adapted for the critically acclaimed film The Elephant Man in 1980.  There’s a significant difference between the film and the stage play:  the film uses state of the art makeup effects to render Merrick’s physical appearance.  The stage play, in contrast, uses no makeup or effects.  The actor who plays Merrick (done brilliantly here by Micah Spiers) must convey the deformities with his posture and movements.

A hunk of a physical specimen, Speirs would never be mistaken offstage for an introverted, ugly invalid.  Onstage, however, he limps, he shuffles, he’s hunched over, and he uses only his left hand.  His right arm is bent at the elbow and his right hand is useless.  The physical challenge of spending more than two hours in such a posture is a considerable, but Spiers does it with a natural flow that conveys the agony of Merrick’s multiple deformities.  Spiers takes the stage in the first scene shirtless, and one can’t help but wonder how this perfectly sculpted actor can possibly play Merrick.  By the second scene, he has fully captured Merrick’s form and spirit.  

Jude Bishop plays Merrick’s surgeon, Dr. Frederick Treves.  The real Treves was an eminent surgeon, and a friend as well as a doctor to Merrick.  Bishop embodies both the professional and the personal qualities of Treves.  He sees the man beneath the deformed skin, and struggles with his inability to treat Merrick’s crippling disorder.  Bishop is particularly effective as he realizes that by trying to normalize Merrick he has done him no favors.  The realization that “normal” was never a suitable medical goal crushes Treves, and Bishop cleverly makes that moment a profound one.

E. Amber Singleton plays Merrick’s companion and love interest with an awkward understanding that any relationship is doomed from the start.  Singleton is an actor playing an actor.  Her audition for the role as Merrick’s companion has a single line (“I’m pleased to make your acquaintance”).  Singleton reads her line several times until she gets it just right, and then performs for Merrick.  It’s an award winning performance.  She captivates and inspires Merrick, stuffing her repulsion and baring her soul to him.  Singleton makes a difficult transition look natural, as she moves from befriending Merrick and fulfilling his fantasy to abruptly breaking his heart into pieces.  

Taylor Geiman has a dual role, but it is his portrayal of Ross that stands out.  Geiman’s Ross is a cruel, greedy character out to sell Merrick’s hideous appearance in a freak show.  Geiman gets to be both heartless and humble as Ross, and he sells both with a convincing performance.

Director Matt Radcliffe has a clear vision, emphasizing Merrick’s essential humanity despite his grotesque disorder.  The beauty of Pomerance’s script is the connection we should feel with Merrick; Radcliffe gets it and has brought that message to the SET stage.  To expedite costume changes, Radcliffe has put some of the necessary items onstage.  Using projections, Radcliffe sets up each scene with a quote from the script, giving the audience a preview of the action to come.

The staging of Merrick’s death scene is stunning; Radcliffe puts him front and center, stretched out on a bed.  Merrick usually slept sitting up, as his head was too large and heavy to lay down.  Radcliffe and Spiers combine to deliver a visually gripping scene of terminal suffering followed by eternal peace.

Radcliffe uses musical interludes between scenes (music by The Rogue Spirits).  The music enhances the entire production, but one recognizable melody stood out:  You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (John Lennon & Paul McCartney).  It was an instrumental, but I could hear the lyrics in my head:

Everywhere people stare
Each and every day
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say
Hey you've got to hide your love away

The music perfectly captures Merrick’s predicament.  He will always have to hide himself from others.  Love is a forbidden notion for The Elephant Man.

Sarah S. Shaver’s costumes are magnificent, detailed, and meticulously true to London in the 1890’s.  Two of those costumes stand out:  the London Bobby and Mrs. Kendall’s bustier and bloomers. 

SET’s production is first rate, although there were some fumbled lines on opening night.  The Elephant Man is a true story, and one that speaks eloquently of the human condition.  We are more alike than we are different.  That’s a message that rang true when Frederick Treves treated Merrick, and it rings true today.  

Given the divisiveness of current events, Merrick’s story is perhaps even more urgent 126 years later than it was when he lived.  The Elephant Man still walks among us today, disabled, disfigured, and standing on street corners everywhere.  

I went away from the SET stage, with Pomerance’s words ringing in my ears:

Merrick:  Do you know why my head is so big?

Kendall:  No.

Merrick:  Because it’s full of dreams.

We are more like those people on the corner than we realize.  We are full of dreams.


This show contains brief nudity.

This show is closes on October 30, 2016.

Photo Credit:  Springs Ensemble Theatre Company



Executive Producer/Technical Director/Director:  Matt Radcliffe

Scenic Design:  Brianna G. Pilon

Assistant Director/Co-Producer:  Brianna G. Pilon

Co-Producer:  Micah Spiers

Fight Choreography:  Gregory Farinelli

Lighting Design:  Emory John Collinson

Sound Design:  The Rogue Spirits (Travis Duncan & Jeremiah Walter)

Costume Design:  Sarah S. Shaver

Costume Construction:  Jillmarie Peterson

Special Props Design:  Charles Redding

Projection Operator:  Anthony Grimaldo

Stage Manager:  Rebecca Savage

Dramaturg:  Jessica Weaver


John Merrick:  Micah Spiers

Frederick Treves:  Jude Bishop

Mrs. Kendall:  E. Amber Singleton

Gomm/Conductor:  Richard “Buck” Buchanan

Ross/Bishop How:  Taylor Geiman

Miss Sandwich/Princess/Pinhead:  Danine Schell

Countess/Pinhead:  Alicia Kensington Franks

Duchess/Pinhead:  Hannah McCullough

Snork/Man/London Police:  Emory John Collinson

Prince/Porter/Belgian Police:  Gregory Farinelli

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Theater for the Whole Community

Theater isn't just for entertainment.  It's also a mirror we hold up to ourselves.  It helps us see ourselves as others see us, with all the beauty, inspiration, and the flaws that define our humanity.  Theater inspires us, informs us, and in some cases, shocks us out of our comfort zone.  

That said, though, theater often focuses on a white male content written for a white male audience.  

Bringing more women and minorities into theater production and performance is not just an idea.  It's a small movement gaining momentum in the Colorado Springs theater community.   It started recently with a Town Hall meeting on the subject, and the followup plan is now coming into focus.

Small group brainstorming on obstacles.
How do you get theater types motivated to make difficult structural changes?  For starters, you might bring people together in a comfortable social setting.  That's exactly what happened on Wednesday, October 5.  Meeting at the Gold Camp Brewery, theater professionals brainstormed the possibilities for moving the needle on diversity.

Small group discussions focused on three basic issues:  obstacles to diversity, why diversity matters, and whether theater is relevant to the community in general.  

Obstacles range from the obvious (money) to the practical (child care conflicts).  Diversity matters for many reasons, but particularly because audiences must be able to relate to characters and stories.  Colorado Springs theater is relevant to most of the community, but not to all of it.

Changing our focus...
Bringing about change is difficult, and usually incremental.  Strategies for the near future may include community outreach for partnerships and initiatives with local Artistic Directors. There was also some discussion on establishing a diversity awards program for local companies.

This is the beginning.  Change is coming, but there is still a lot of work ahead.  There will be more meetings down the road, and more opportunities for your input.  You can bring your kids, so no child care is required.  And as a bonus, they will get to see how you were part of a change that will benefit them some day.

If you are interested in diversity in local theater but couldn't attend this meeting, don't despair.  You can email me at with your ideas.  I will pass them on to the group.  I'll also post information about future meetings here on Theater Colorado Springs.