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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Disney’s Aladdin at The Denver Center – A Wish Granted 0

It shouldn’t surprise many to hear me say I LOVE most things Disney. Movies, Theme Parks, and Musicals.  The special wonder of my childhood is given freedom to squeal, giggle, and dream. If you share that affection for the big, splashy, earnest shows Disney is known for then you wont want to miss Disney’s ALADDIN while the tour is bringing Agrabah to life at the Buell.

For me the three wishes granted in this tour are Michael – James – Scott. (Well, also the costumes…and the sets…and the music…and the company…okay, they granted several of my wishes.) Michael James Scott (he plays the Genie) is a Megawatt Showman.

 

Denver Center_Disney's Aladdin_Photos by Deen van Meer

Michael James Scott Photo By Deen van Meer

About Aladdin

Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, the show features music by Tony Award and eight-time Oscar® winner Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Sister Act), lyrics by two-time Oscar winner Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid), three-time Tony Award and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (Evita, Aida) and four-time Tony Award nominee Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), with a book by Beguelin, and is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon) 

Aladdin, adapted from the Academy Award®-winning animated Disney film and centuries-old folktales including “One Thousand and One Nights,” is brought to fresh theatrical life in this bold new musical.  Aladdin’s journey sweeps audiences into an exotic world of daring adventure, classic comedy and timeless romance.  This new production features a full score, including the five cherished songs from the Academy Award-winning soundtrack and more written especially for the stage

Denver Center_Disney's Aladdin_Photos by Deen van Meer

Arabian Nights Women. Disney's Aladdin Original Broadway Company. ©Disney. Photo by Deen van Meer.

Aladdin_3x3.375_Show Tile

Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the ONLY authorized ticket provider for Disney’s Aladdin in Denver. Ticket buyers who purchase tickets from a ticket broker, or any third party, run the risk of overpaying or potentially buying illegitimate tickets. If they do, they should be aware that the DCPA is unable to reprint or replace lost or stolen tickets and are unable to contact patrons with information regarding time changes or other pertinent updates regarding the performance. Patrons found in violation of the DCPA Ticket Purchase and Sale Terms and Policies  may have ALL of their tickets cancelled.

Q&A with Playwright Rebecca Gorman O’Neill 0

And Toto too Theatre Company is presenting two one act plays THE WAY STATION & THE SOUTH STAR by Colorado Playwright Rebecca Gorman O’Neill.

THE WAY STATION is the story of three strangers from different places and times, each pulled out of their travels and dropped off at a mysterious way station. At this surreal crossroads, no excuse, lie, or self-delusion holds up to scrutiny, and each person must find the strength to face his or her own dark secret, only then may they move on.

SOUTH STAR is set seven years in the future, during the second American Civil War, South Star is the story of a survivor, an inspiration, a reluctant hero who wishes she could just stop running. Stel finds herself in the company of two people – one an apparent victim, and one an apparent predator. What commences is a figurative game of three-card-Monty; the stakes are Stel’s life.

Here is my Q&A with Playwright Rebecca Gorman O’Neill 

Rebecca Gorman ONeill

Eden Lane:

 The Way Station and South Star are one act plays that share a few elements but do not seem directly related. How do you describe them, and did you conceive them as companion pieces?

Rebecca Gorman:

I would describe the Way Station as a mystery, and South Star as a suspense story.   The two of them do share some elements that I always find intriguing: 1 – a space that doesn’t belong to any of the characters – a space that is on the way to another space and 2 – a trap: a reason the characters can’t leave.  In The Way Station, the trap is physical, in South Star, it’s psychological.  Also, I love a 3-person play.  They provide a great opportunity to keep shifting alliances – one person is always against two, and you can keep shifting that dynamic around.

I didn’t specifically conceive them as companion pieces – South Star is much more clearly a companion to my full-length, The Greater Good, which And Toto Too was the first to produce – but I love the way that they’re coming together under Susan’s guidance. The actors, I hope, get to have fun showing some range, and, like any 2 pieces of art when you put them side-by-side, one gives a different context to the other.

EL:

After reading these plays I first thought of Rod Serling, (like you he also taught writing) not as a direct comparison, but simply as a salute. Is there any connection to his style for you?

RG:

Oh absolutely!  The Way Station is very much inspired by The Twilight Zone, which I think is a classic of American Literature.  I think that Rod Serling, (and Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King) are strong influences on my writing.  They are giants.  So if you see the salute, I’m more than flattered.  South Star a little less directly inspired.  That idea came from an immersion in literature about the WWII French Resistance movement.

EL:

What drew you to writing one act plays?

RG:

One-Acts are how I learned to write plays.  I started writing plays in college, and took the (two) playwriting classes my college offered.  My mentor, Peter Parnell, encouraged us to write for the One-Act Festival my school hosted, which is how I got my first productions.  The length and the limit of the one act suited me – I like compact stories.   One acts were all I wrote until grad school, because it’s all I thought I knew how to write.

EL:

On the New Play Exchange you write that you are “bored of cynicism and I appreciate cleverness.”, how did that point of view develop for you?

RG:

Thank you for reading my NNPX page!  I sometimes think I’m whistling in the wind on that one.  OK, so, I teach, and I’m a judge for a couple play contests, and the result is that I read a ton of plays.  (I also watch a lot of TV and movies) a ton, mostly by beginning writers, who tend to lean comfortably back into being cynical about the state of, well, everything.  But then I sometimes get to see cleverness – innovation – something I haven’t seen before. That’s so, so exciting.  Cynicism is a place where one can rest. Cleverness is like a call to action, innovation, and movement.

EL:

How would you describe working with And Toto Too Theatre Company?

RG:

It’s straight-up wonderful working with And Toto Too.  Susan and I figured out that we had been working together in some capacity since the first Play Crawl, 2010.  They produced a reading of, then a full production of The Greater Good , which went on to be published.  Susan takes such good care of her actors, designers, and playwrights.  She’s professional and focused, and what’s really lovely, is I always feel in very good hands.  I trust And Toto Too with my work, and I have always been treated with care and respect.  I’m really very grateful for this opportunity.

EL:

Anything else you would like to share?

RG:

The actors are wonderful! The set design is exciting!  The Lighting designer is talented!  I’m very much looking forward to seeing how And Toto Too brings the plays to the stage, and I am really, very proud to be working with And Toto Too again.

The Way Station & South Star

The Way Station & South Star by Rebecca Gorman O'Neill. April 19-May 5 got tickets https://www.andtototoo.org/buytickets/

Posted by And Toto too Theatre Company on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

April 19-May 5, 2018
Thursday-Saturday-7:30pm
ASL performance April 27

For Ticket Information

The Way Station and South Star-Two one Acts
by Rebecca Gorman O’Neill
Directed by Susan Lyles

Starring Kate Poling, Seth Palmer Harris and Austin Lazek

Set & Sound Design Darren Smith
Light Design Alexis K. Bond
Stage Manager Carol Timblin
Fight Choreography Benaiah Anderson