Benchmark Theatre -A Kid Like Jake 0

As they open their second season Benchmark Theatre Company is living up to their mission statement which reads in part,”…to stimulate conversations about the universal human experience and nourish the imaginative spirit of our community through thought-provoking productions,”  The first production of the season, is also the first production in their new Lakewood home at 40 West Arts. If that location sounds familiar it is because the theater space is  home to The Edge Theatre Company. Benchmark is mounting the regional premiere of Daniel Pearle’s A Kid Like Jake. This is even more exciting because the play has been adapted for the screen staring Jim Parsons  Claire Danes, Priyanka Chopra, and Octavia Spencer. So Denver audiences get the chance to see Colorado actors in the roles first. 

A KID LIKE JAKE BY DANIEL PEARLE

Alex and Greg have high hopes for their son Jake, a precocious four-year old who happens to prefer Cinderella to GI Joe. But when implications of choosing the right school for Jake come to the fore, his parents are forced to reconcile their aspirations for Jake with their identities as both parents and spouses.

Benchmark tapped Warren Sherrill to direct, and the cast includes Antonio Amadeo, Adrian Egolf, Martha Harmon Pardee, and Madison McKenzie Scott.

After the opening weekend I had a chance to have an email Q&A about the production.

 

I began with Executive Artistic Director Rachel Rogers.
Rachel Rogers Executive Artistic Director, Benchmark Theatre Company
EL: How did A Kid Like Jake become the choice to open the second Benchmark Theatre season?
RR: The theme of our inaugural season was “Cultivation,” and we believed A Kid Like Jake was the perfect fit to kick off our sophomore year themed “Identity” because the story reveals how many different lenses we see ourselves through. We loved how Jake tackled the questions of how to be one’s true self as parents, spouses, educators and especially as children who are just beginning to understand the concept. We always ask ourselves, why tell this story? For us, Jake opens an important dialogue by asking its audience to reflect personally about how society shapes our thinking of who we should be and how we should raise our children to be, while pressing us to examine our own presumptions regarding gender identity. It also sympathetically portrays the fears we have in trying to provide our children with the best opportunities without imposing identities on them.
EL: Tell me about the importance of the “identity” choice for Benchmark at 40 West.
RR: We chose “Identity” as our Season 2 theme because something we all share is the need to define ourselves. We thought producing stories that remind our audiences that no matter our differences, our search to figure out who we are is something we all share. The hope is that the conversations sparked by these plays will lead to a better understanding and compassion for each other. It’s a theme I’m sure we’ll bring back in future seasons.
Warren Sherrill Director – A Kid Like Jake

Director Warren Sherrill lead the company to all the story with sensitivity.

EL: This script could be seen as the story of a marriage, the story of parenting in certain environment, or several more themes, how did you see this story?

WS: I basically see the script as a modern story of parenting…with the important word being modern. I don’t think this story could have happened 50 or even 20 years ago, not because there weren’t the same issues but because the “acceptance” (and I use quotes carefully) is more prevalent…and not always, as we see in the play, in a positive way. These parents of today are facing the struggle of pigeonholing their child when they have worked so hard just to celebrate and embrace his creativity and imagination. We have come so far as a society (still have a long way to go) when it comes to understanding and open-mindedness but with that understanding and acceptance comes new challenges for parents and ultimately for children.

EL: What was the primary challenge to bring this story to life at Benchmark?  How did you solve it?

WS: I immediately was concerned about Alex’s character, the mother in the play, and how she was written. In so many ways she can come off as uncaring and hostile. As a member of the audience it could be so easy to view her as the enemy, and let’s face it, if that happens, we don’ have a play. After uncovering this concern, I quickly felt like it was our job to work against that and that is when it ultimately hit me, that the play is actually about Alex…her choices, her struggles, her constant battle to do what she thinks is right for her child and how one can be driven to an irrational place because of the insanity. Once we all focused on that I think the play becomes what the playwright intended.

Adrian Egolf  plays Alex, the mother in A Kid Like Jake with a deft touch.

Actor Adrian Egolf (Alex) A Kid Like Jake – Benchmark Theatre Company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EL: Alex is certainly a complex character, how do you describe her?

AE: Alex is simply a mother bear. She couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks of her, because her son is the top priority. To her, nothing is more important than his future and his happiness. She is doing all she can to make the best decisions for her son, to give him the brightest future he can possibly have. The catch is, she doesn’t know what the best decision is. She wants to protect her son from judgment and labels. She wants him to be seen for who he is, regardless of what he likes to wear, who his favorite disney character is, or what gender he identifies with. Alex is fierce and brutal when it comes to protecting her son. Like all humans, she struggles with criticism and cannot stand the thought that she may be doing more harm than good for her son’s future. She wants everything to be “fine” and “happy”, even if that means ignoring some difficult truths about how society may treat her child. She wants to do good, so she believes she deserves good things for herself and Jake.

EL: What attracted you to this story?

AE: Hmmm. That is a tough question. Everything?! I just think this story is so timely. We live in a world where gender is becoming  more fluid. Younger generations are not using gender to define how humans interact with each other. “Love is love”. Women want to play football and wear suits and become CEOs. Men want to take dance classes and stay at home to raise their children. This play asks why it matters which gender expresses those desires. Why is it an issue if a little boy wants t be Cinderella? How do we react? Children are being given more freedom to “become their truest selves” and I think we are at a pivotal place in history, where we are navigating how true one can really be to themselves in our current culture. This play is a microcosm of a world where everyone is trying to do their best and be accepting of those they love, even if it means admitting something new and possibly unknown into their lives. I was attracted to this play because I fully believe Love is Love, regardless of race, gender, or creed. We are witnessing a brave new generation that is stepping up and speaking out and claiming a culture where there is no “normal”. These voices are being heard and we all need to ask ourselves how we can be good listeners and move towards a more inclusive and accepting society, a society without boxes and separate bathrooms.

 

EL: Any parting thoughts you’d care to add?

AE: This play really hits close to home for me because it is about real people who are trying to do their best at parenting which, to me, is the most honorable and difficult job in the world. Raising a human is hard! My own parents have done marvelous job, and continue to do so. The way in which having children affects a marriage, affects your beliefs, and affects your priorities is something we all can relate to. This play shows us that we all struggle through these major life events. We are all human. We have all experienced these difficulties and it takes the shame away from the mistakes we have made through these shared trials and tribulations. It is an opening for a much needed discussion to take place. It is a play that offers forgiveness and insight for those of us that are just trying to do out best, even after we fail and continue the struggle anyway.

 

A KID LIKE JAKE
BY DANIEL PEARLE

Directed by Warren Sherrill

February 16 – March 24, 2018
Friday and Saturday Nights at 8:00pm
Sunday Evenings at 6:00pm
Special Monday Industry Night February 26th at 8:00pm

Ticket Prices:
$30 General Admission
$20 Student/Senior/Veteran

for Tickets visit Benchmark Theatre Company Here 

Children under the age of 6 will not be admitted.

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Eden Lane is a freelance journalist based in Denver Colorado

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“Honorable Disorder” – Q&A with Jeff Campbell 0

As artists continue to take charge of their work so they can create authentic representations of their own experiences many find ways to produce their work outside of large arts and culture organizations. Jeff Campbell built an audience in 2013 with a powerful and provocative piece called “Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?” doing just that. He has returned to Denver and to it’s theater community with a new work and a new theater company.

Set in the dynamic landscape of present-day Denver, Honorable Disorder is a story of reconciliation, growth, and recognition for a young black veteran.

Honorable Disorder by Jeff Campbell at Emancipation Theater Company
Honorable Disorder by Jeff Campbell at Emancipation Theater Company

Eden Lane:

For your first piece since returning to Denver you founded a new theater company (Emancipation Theater Company) and serve as Producer/Writer/Actor/Director for the premiere production “Honorable Disorder”; How did the company come together? How was if formed?

Jeff Campbell:

The concept of Emancipation Theater Company is inspired by the Marcus Garvey quote: “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.” Also inspired by the 1958 Academy Award Winning film “The Defiant Ones” starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. The film is about two escaped prisoners, who are chained together, one Black, and the other White, who must cooperate in order to survive. The ETC logo depicts two abstract characters, not specifically representing races, but rather the dynamic opposites of the human spectrum, bound together by their humanity, who must work together to overcome the matrix of forces that inhibit their experience as human beings. When I came home from Georgia, after being gone a year, I knew I wanted to form a company that represented freedom, justice and equality, and approach theater in for profit business model, like a film company, and donate to it’s non profit community partner organizations. I raised the money on my own, working my construction job. It’s a single member LLC, and I function just like a general contractor who hires tradesmen to create a finished product.

EL:

In “Honorable Disorder” you show us the world some Vets experience, and take us through the story of a neighborhood changing without appreciation of the existing community. The character Nancy says she doesn’t understand why people move to a neighborhood but don’t participate in the community. “Most of these folks move to this neighborhood, don’t ever become a part of the community once they here. Are they afraid of their neighbors or something?” How did these stories come together for you?

JC:

Veterans are disproportionately represented at the bottom of the socioeconomic landscape and in a rising housing market, they are disproportionately affected. I learned about the difficulties veterans face accessing their benefits while working for the veterans resource center in Georgia. I’ve been watching Five Points change over the last 15 years, but when I left in 2016, and returned in 2017, the change felt even more drastic. I chose to talk about those things simultaneously because they are so connected.

Theo Wilson (DeShawn Foster) in Honorable Disorder photo by: Celia Herrera

EL:

The intersection of arts and political activism has a long tradition. What do you think the role of the artist is in this community today?

JC:

Not only social commentary and “telling it like it is” but utilizing your power as a catalyst to gather the community in a way that folks on the frontlines of social justice can be highlighted and supported through your art monetarily. You cannot simply call yourself an activist because you “tell it like it is” in your art. Raise the awareness in the community of the people doing the work in the movement, and back them with dollars. Collaborate with organizations and individuals who are working towards social change.

EL:

How will you measure the success of this first production for Emancipation Theater Company?

JC:

If the community is inspired to continue the dialogue and take action.

Although there are 6 characters in the play from an archetypical point of view, there are really only 3. The Mother and the Sergeant are the same, they represent the embattled sages of wisdom. The veteran and the social worker are the same, both have the savior complex. The uncle and platoon buddy are both cynical co-dependent anti heroes. I approached the writing in that way in order to draw parallels in their lives and allow their commonality to be organically expressed through their point of view. Often we get so wrapped up in issues, and identities, that we forget that people are the same, no matter who they are. The antagonist isn’t a person, it’s our lack of understanding, compassion, and empathy for one another.

 

Honorable Disorder

Apr 7 – Apr 29Cleo Parker Robinson Dance

For Tickets visit

Emancipation Theater Co.

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes with the company of “Honorable Disorder”

Meet the cast

Posted by Emancipation Theater Co. on Wednesday, April 4, 2018

(My interviews with Jeff Campbell for Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?“)


Miners Alley presents Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps 0

This weekend Miners Alley Playhouse opened a new production directed by Josh Hartwell. Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps starring Casey Andree (Richard Hannay), Alaina Beth Reel (Annabella Schmidt/Margaret/Pamela), John Wittbrodt (Clown One) and Sean Michael Cummings (Clown Two) is filled with energy and charm.

Photo Credit: Sarah Roshan

Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you have The 39 Steps,” a fast-paced whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre! This 2-time Tony® and Drama Desk Award-winning treat is packed with nonstop laughs, over 150 zany characters (played by a ridiculously talented cast of 4), an on-stage plane crash, handcuffs, missing fingers and some good old-fashioned romance!

Creative problem solving is required for any production of “The 39 Step” no matter how big the space or budget. It’s clearly impressive when a small company with a unique and intimate space like the team at Miners Alley Playhouse calls home can do so with design, wit, and a wink.  The opening night audiecne was delighted.

 

 

March 23 through April 29 in Golden. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30p.m; Sundays at 2:00p.m. Tickets are $15 – $38

Box Office 303-935-3044 or online at minersalley.com.

Miners Alley Playhouse is located at 1224 Washington Avenue. Golden, CO 80401.