Denver’s rapid growth impacts housing, transportation, and business. Space is valuable. The arts and artists often struggle to survive in the areas they helped to make appealing. Lisa Wagner Erickson has staked a claim in the Sloan’s Lake/Edgewater neighborhood at 5138 West 29th Street. This new black box theater space aptly named Theater 29, is home for five theater companies focused on presenting Colorado playwrights.
The founding companies and collectives are Pandemic Collective, Feral Assembly , DirtyFish Theater, The Lulubird Project, and Chase & Be Still Stage, which is presenting the inaugural show, Burnt Offering by Dakota C. Hill.
In rural west Texas, a young man living with a prominent skin disorder awaits the arrival of a stranger whose visit has been orchestrated by his domineering sister under the pretense of a cure. He soon learns that everything comes with a price and that blood isn’t always thicker than water.
Here is my Q&A with him after opening night.
Can you share a bit about how and why you became a Playwright?
Dakota C. Hill:
Well, I was cast in my first summer stock production around the age of 15. I didn’t get a summer break in high school because I was away performing and soaking in as much of a professional theater environment that I could. That is all to say that an undying love for theater has been present for as long as I can remember. But I lost touch with it for a number of years and instead focused on film school and life outside of theater. That is, until I went to an audition, got a call-back, really really wanted the part and was the runner-up. I went home that night and realized that I should try and write a play. I wrote it in two days and absolutely fell in love with writing for the stage. I hadn’t realized, until then, that my passion for writing was entirely focused on a desire to tell human stories. To dive as deep as I can into what makes us tick, laugh, cry, lash out, hurt and heal one another. What are we, us humans? For me, the stage is the best place to explore that.
What sparked you to write Burnt Offering?
I wrote Burnt Offering because of Dustin, the son and hero of the story. I met this guy, got to know, and grew to love him over a number of months both in my head and in various scenes I wrote until I realized after a while he would still be with his family. And so I got to know them. His sister. His mother. And then Mason as this sort of catalyst for change for Dustin. And once they all met on paper it sort of poured out of me. If I were to really dive into where a lot of the themes and metaphors come from it would be my growing up gay in rural Texas and trying to grapple with something within myself that I thought was abnormality. I was so very fortunate to have an incredible, loving, and supportive family. But, I certainly knew a lot of people who weren’t so fortunate. So in some ways I think I wrote the play for them.
How did this play become the inaugural production at Theater 29?
You know, I got really lucky in regards to being the first show at Theater 29. Ellen K. Graham and I had already decided to co-produce this play and we were looking for a space when Lisa Wagner Erickson decided to buy the property and turn it into a theater. The two of them were already friends and had worked together in the past. So, Lisa and I were introduced and hit it off!
Playwrights often mention the value of simply hearing the work spoken by actors, and at Theater 29 you are able to have a full production, what have you learned during this experience?
It is so helpful to hear the work out loud. To really get a sense of what works or comes across with the correct intention and what doesn’t. And having the full production here, in a space where the playwright is an integral part of the production, I could treat the beginning of the process as a sort of workshop until the script looked and sounded it’s best. That’s invaluable. Add to that, having the full production also gives the playwright this full sense of accomplishment and pride that a reading, while wonderful and invaluable in it’s own right, can’t really accomplish. And it can’t accomplish that, for me at least, because it’s not a complete play. A complete world.
Our last teaser: the incredible Nicole Campbell as Rose. Tickets are moving, we hope you do too. www.theater29denver.com
Posted by Ellen K Graham on Monday, May 14, 2018
MAY 17 – 26
For Tickets visit theater29denver.com