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. 


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.



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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In the age of a “Hack” for everything. STOMP uses everything but conventional percussion instruments – matchboxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters, hubcaps – to fill the stage with magnificent rhythms.

This exuberant event returns to the Denver Center this month. Feb 13 – Feb 18

Denver Center_STOMP

Ticket Price: Starting at $25 at
Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – – is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for this productions in Denver.


STOMP. See what all the noise is about.


Songs And Stories from JANE/EYRE – A New Adaptation 0

Grapefruit Lab’s premier production takes a new look at Jane Eyre from a queer perspective, with original music by Teacup Gorilla and Dameon Merkl.

It is billed as an exploration of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre. The new look at the 1847 Charlotte Brontë story features original songs by Teacup Gorilla and Dameon Merkl (Lost Walks, Bad Luck City). The creative team behind the hybrid play/concert adaptation is author/musician, Miriam Suzanne, and former director at The LIDA Project, Julie Rada.  They describe it as a dark and often humorous look at the early feminist novel — bringing a contemporary, queer perspective to Jane’s story.

2017 © Grapefruit Lab Julie Rada | Kenny Storms | Miriam Suzanne Denver, Colorado

My email Q&A with Miriam Suzanne

EL: What was is about Jane Eyre that inspired you to create this as your first full-length show?
MS: Julie has loved Jane Eyre since she read it in school. When she proposed it as one of several options, Miriam had to do some research to get caught up – and fell in love quickly. (Julie Rada clarified: “I didn’t read it in high school. I read it a few years ago for fun.”)
We were excited by the first-person, internal perspective of a woman growing up – a format that jumps quickly between exposition, private emotional ruminations, and cutting political statements. This is complex woman, trying to find independence in a world that won’t allow it. She’s acutely aware of power, privilege, and class in every moment – and willing to step outside the story to address it.
Meanwhile, she’s just a kid growing up: falling in love, experiencing heart-break for the first time, and pondering death, religion, and forgiveness. She’s in the action, and also looking back on it. This wild mix of personal and political, action and reflection, is how life feels to me – and I find that interesting to explore. We highlight it in production by having two Jane’s on-stage, passing the story between very personal moments, and outside commentary or narration. Lindsey Pierce plays in the action, with Miriam commenting as she provides underscore with the band.
For the second edition of the novel, Charlotte Brontë (as Currer Bell) writes a scathing preface – a defense of her character against pious critique – and then suddenly wanders off into a tangent about her favorite author: William Thackeray. The books has an attitude, and an agenda, in addition to an interesting character. We love the tangents as well as the layered authorship – Brontë writing as Bell, who writes as Jane, narrating from 10-20 years in the future. So we put Brontë on stage as well, played by Julie – sometimes defending her work, and sometimes commenting on it from a more contemporary perspective.
EL: How would you describe the music for anyone not already familiar with Teacup Gorilla?
MS: Teacup Gorilla was once called “too moody for pride” – and that seems
 appropriate. We merge instrumental “post-rock”/”indie-rock” aesthetics with poetry, and story-telling – for a sound that is both moody and cinematic, even when we play at bars. We enjoy big dynamic shifts, and carrying the audience along on a journey from one song to the next – shifting musical genres as necessary to get where we’re going.
According to Tom Murphy in the Westword: “Teacup Gorilla’s amiable creative approach, unorthodox roots and sense of community have resulted in a sound that is difficult to pin down: part instrumental rock, part glam, part psychedelic, part jazz-inflected. And it sounds like nothing much else in this highly imitative era.”
On a more practical level, we’re often compared to early Modest Mouse, Explosions in the Sky, and Velvet Underground. For this piece we’ve also taken inspiration from Django Reinhardt, Parlement Funkadelic, Mark Knopfler, Anglican hymns, and elsewhere.
EL: You described the project as “bringing a contemporary, queer perspective to Jane’s story.” — there are many intersections of identities that can be encompassed in ‘contemporary, queer perspective’, can you describe what queer perspective(s) are at work in this adaptation?
MS: Julie and I are both “contemporary queers” – so on a very basic level, our own perspectives fit that description, and we’ve gone out of the way to include our perspective in the piece: adding ourselves to the authorial stack: writing as Bell, as Brontë, as Jane. And we’re not alone: there are queer women in the band, and playing music before some performances.
But we also bring an understanding of queer history, queer theory, intersectionality, and contemporary thought to a story that is both feminist and problematic at times. When Brontë writes about Jane’s close, physical relationships to Helen Burns or Diana Rivers, we can read those as queer relationships – written before “lesbian” or “bi/pansexual” identity-groups had formed. So we dig into that un-named queerness and draw it out. Suddenly Mr Rochester becomes one of several love interests, treated on equal footing with the others.
We say “queer” with a sense that it is different from a more descriptive “lgbtqia” – a way of understanding fluid identities, sexualities, and labels – concerned with intersections of the political and personal. Queer theory starts from questioning “normal” – what is it, who decides, and what power dynamic is behind it? That’s the same foundation that Jane seems to work from: constantly questioning what she’s been told about gender, class, religion, mental health, and so on. Sometimes that provides problems for us, when Brontë’s understanding of race and colonialism fall far short – brushed to the side without much thought. How can we as adapting authors comment on that, and critique the story as we tell it?


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2017 © Grapefruit Lab