Denver, Denver, Denver

Sculpture ParkClean, large windows. Bright sunlight ping-ponging between buildings, leaving very little in the chill shadows. A downtown populated with pedestrians in search of food, shopping, art, and experiences of all varieties. And they’re all so nice. As in Oregonian-nice. Oh, Denver. You keep this up and I just might stay.

I’ve returned this year for another trip to the Colorado New Play Summit. I’ve found CNPS to be on the forward edge of where theatre in this country is going. The titles from each festival they later produce as part of their regular season bear this witness. Last year’s selections included: the techno-drama Ed, Downloaded, a sort of all-too-terrifyingly-similar-to-now half-play-half-film; and Grace, or The Art of Climbing, a physically demanding (to say the least) comic-drama that follows a young woman coming to terms with life’s difficulties as she takes up rock climbing–as does the actress in the lead role, along with the rest of the ensemble. In each of these titles is a stunning combination of recognizable yet complex characters, stories allowing room for growth and stillness (and the consequences of each), and circumstances so very close to our own world, so entirely probable, that we are forced to confront a fear we’d not previously recognized.

This year’s production delights–at least, those I have the pleasure of seeing–include two of last year’s most popular readings: black odyssey by Marcus Gardley and The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez. Georgia McBride is a straight man’s drag queen fairy tale. One of the most awe- and delight-inducing productions I’ve ever attended, McBride takes on stereotype, smacks it down with a glitter-laden blush brush, and teaches it to see a person’s gifts for what they are–all while putting on one hell of a drag show.

black odyssey melds the ancient epic of a lost hero and the epic cultural history of the African American experience, making Ulysses a soldier trying desperately to return home from the Gulf War. Song, dance, a chess board, a Cadillac, and the destiny told in the lines of a hand–black odyssey is an astounding example of storytelling at its finest.

I’ll have plenty more to say about this weekend’s CNPS14 after I’ve had a couple days’ (and a couple hundred miles’) distance to digest. One thing I can say now: CNPS is an absolute gift to American theatre. Thanks, all.

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