Arvada Center Blog

An interview with Abner Genece of The Diary of Anne Frank


An interview with Abner Genece of The Diary of Anne Frank

How often have you attended a play with a vision of what the characters look like beforehand? What happens when they look nothing like what you expected? With today’s atmosphere geared toward inclusion and racial equity, diversity in casting is a hot topic. Color-conscious casting aims to choose performers based on their skill and character fit, but also to embrace how an actor’s race, gender, or disability can reveal new and interesting elements of a character and a story. In the Arvada Center’s 2019 Black Box Repertory season, The Diary of Anne Frank uses color-conscious casting for the role of the Dutch character Hermann van Daan. We spoke with Abner Genece, who portrays Mr. van Daan, on his views of casting diversity and how it can illuminate a play’s universal themes:

Abner Genece as Mr. van Daan in The Diary of Anne Frank. Matt Gale Photography 2019.

  1. In this spring’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank, you play Mr. van Daan, a character who in real life was a white Jewish Dutch man. As a man of Haitian descent, how did you approach inhabiting the character?

As a man of Haitian descent, I approach the character with a deep sense of respect, admiration and sincerity for Hermann van Daan’s cultural identity and historical significance. In The Diary of Anne Frank, I’m telling the story of a man who actually lived; a specific man: of a specific culture and time in history. My goal is to honor his story and culture as best I can, using all the tools that I have (including my own cultural perspective). In the end, I am telling his story within Anne’s story, in a way that aims to serve and enlighten.


  1. What universal themes of the play do you think are illuminated when race and ethnicity are not a factor while casting?

I recognize numerous themes that infuse my character’s journey in the play; such as honor, pride, resiliency, patience, humor, discrimination, passion, diligence, love, and loss. My goal was to bring such themes forth, through the character’s perspective.


  1. How do theatres respectfully create racially diverse companies and casts while recognizing the playwright’s original intentions?

I feel that it begins with an open, honest dialogue. How does one choose to define the position of the company? Is the theatre asking the right questions when it comes to racially diverse companies and casts? We, as theatre artists, have an opportunity to explore such questions with sensitivity, curiosity, and honesty. For me, it’s also important to remember that historically-marginalized groups, as a whole (such as those of African descent, for example) have never been on completely equal footing with regard to “mainstream” storytelling. To a large degree, choices in storytelling have been based on preconceived notions. To start these dialogues with such truths, with each story told, requires patience, commitment, and discipline.


  1. Diversity of casting is an important part of the Arvada Center’s IDEA initiative (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access). How does this affect the stories we can tell and how a philosophy of IDEA can play a part in telling those stories?

For me, the Arvada Center’s IDEA initiative represents an exciting opportunity to approach and tell stories with uniquely fresh perspectives. The truths of these stories can be explored through formerly hidden lenses. My very casting illustrates a commitment to the philosophy of IDEA, and seeks to uncover truths that can be revealed and celebrated for the benefit of our audiences.


The 2019 Black Box Repertory Company features a rotating cast of talented actors – both new and familiar faces. Meet the company, and learn more about the plays presented this season, on the Arvada Center website. The Diary of Anne Frank runs until May 17. 


Students take the lead with Warren Tech and Arvada Center Art of the State collaboration


By Leslie Simon

When the Arvada Center hosts Art of the State, a juried exhibit of local artists, the beautiful artwork on the main posters and invitations is hard to miss.


Every year, Director of Galleries Collin Parson teams with Warren Tech’s Scot Odendahl, choosing one lucky student to provide the main artwork while getting a chance to experience working in graphic design at a professional level. As the students hone in on their unique ideas, they are given assistance in ways to really amp up their work to a professional standard.

“We give the students the concept, theme and title for the winter and spring exhibits. They get to create graphic murals that we incorporate into printed invitational postcards,” Parson said.

While previous years saw only Graphic Design students participating, the program continues to grow and offer artistic opportunities for students in other concentrations to be a part of Art of the State. ODendahl remarks “This year we have expanded once again to create a multi-disciplinary program called the IDEA (InterDisciplinary Enterprise Apprenticeship) Group that consists of Computer Science & Cybersecurity, Game Development, Graphic Design & Digital Photography, STEM: X-TREME Engineering, and TV/Video Production. Students now have the ability to work together with other Warren Tech programs to solve multi-disciplinary problems in a creative environment.”

The collaborative program for Art of the State is a great way for students to get a head start in their creative profession.  Each winning selection is adapted into various sizes and forms, from the 8’x8’ mural in the Main Gallery to the postcard invitations that have the students name credited on them. “It’s a win-win for everyone as they get a professional setting to experience and we get amazing and unique graphics while extending our mission of arts education,” said Collin.

With both the Arvada Center and Warren Tech being important community institutions in Arvada, it only makes sense that there is an overlap for some of the students.

“Our students love working with the Arvada Center, and many of them have been coming to events there since they were in elementary school. Seeing students have an experience working with a venue that has been a great influence on their early life impact and continue on into their future careers has been amazing to witness,” says Odendahl.

Warren Tech graphic design student Hunter Beckett with his design. Photo courtey of Jeffco Public Schools.

So when you see the poster for Art of the State 2019 this year with its beautiful state flower, the columbine, know that the artwork came from the hard work of a Warren Tech student artist and the guidance of the Arvada Center. What began as a student artwork exhibit grew into those students creating professional work for us, and we look forward to seeing how the relationship continues to grow.

Art of the State 2019 begins this Thursday, January 17 with a free reception from 6 – 9 pm. In its third iteration, Art of the State 2019 garnered 1,555 entries from 566 artists in a call for entry that was open to all Colorado artists utilizing all media. It runs until March 31.

9 Skills to Learn for 2019

9 Skills to Learn for 2019 – Kick your creative energy into gear for the New Year

By Leslie Simon

The beginning of a new year is always a great time to leave behind the things that don’t serve you, and take on new skills and challenges. The arts enrich your life in so many ways, from giving a sense of calm to helping us learn about life, and seeing things in a new perspective. Whether it’s learning the guitar to write soulful songs or using a 3D printer to bring your ideas and sketches to life, the Arvada Center is full of opportunities to learn new skills from renowned and patient teachers. Here are nine classes that can level up your creative energy in 2019.

Classes for Kids

Matt Gale Photography 2018

1. 3D Printing –Turn your 2D sketch ideas into a 3D tangible object using a 3D printer in the Digital Creative Arts Lab at the Arvada Center. –Mon., Jan. 7-Mar. 11, 4pm-5:30pm

2. Cartooning: Anime and Manga –Study the popular cartooning styles anime and manga as students learn the techniques of drawing anime art to create their own comic. –Tue., Jan. 8-Mar. 12, 4pm-5:30pm

3. The Art of Magic –There’s a fine art when it comes to magic tricks, and as students learn the history and sleight of hand tricks, they will find themselves well on their way to starring in their own Las Vegas magic show. – M-F, Mar. 25-29, 9am-12pm

4. Digital Movie Making– The perfect class for those with a little Spielberg in them, get to learn all the ins and outs of making a digital film and using green screens at the Digital Creative Arts Lab. –M-F, Mar. 25-29, 9am-12pm

5. Monsters, Myth and Magic– Using a variety of art techniques to depict legendary monsters, students will learn monster origin tales that will give a deeper knowledge of the world around them. — M-F, Mar. 25-29, 9am-12pm

Classes for Adults

Matt Gale Photography 2018

6. Pilates Mat Class – Imagine a class where you gain flexibility, strengthen your core muscles, improve mobility, perfect your posture, bring vitality back into your life and even get to listen to relaxing music- that’s the Pilates at Class. – Tues., Jan. 29-Apr. 2, 7:30pm-8:30pm

7. Beginning Guitar Lessons –Beginning with fingerpicking and on to guitar riffs, live out your rock star dreams with this beginner Guitar class.–Thur., Jan. 10-Mar. 14, 7pm-8:30pm

8. Beginning Calligraphy –Bring back the art of letter writing with this Calligraphy class, using your skills for party invitations, holiday cards and more.–Sat., Jan. 19, 9am-1pm

9. Easy Crocheting for Beginners –Baby, it’s cold outside!  Learn the basics of bringing hook and yarn together to create fuzzy soft masterpieces in a soothing and relaxing manner. – Wed., Jan. 9-Feb. 27, 6pm-7:30pm


Register for classes on the Arvada Center website. Make sure to register quickly as classes do fill up:

It’s Never Too Late to Grow


Buddy the elf comes to the Arvada Center, bringing to life one of the most cherished holiday films and modern classics of this century! The joyous and heartwarming tale of Buddy the elf and his journey to New York City in search of his real father, leaves us laughing and singing along because of his unfailing Christmas cheer. His story reminds us of the magic of Christmas and the power of family.

Though we laugh at this comedic story of a silly elf who is trying to find his way in this big world, perhaps we all can find that we relate to Buddy’s story. We are all on a journey toward finding out who we are and where we belong. Maybe sometimes it feels like it’s too late to change; it’s too late to grow. We question if it’s really worth it at all. But as we see with Buddy and his sincere passion, we learn that it is possible. We can grow. We can learn. There is still time to become the best versions of ourselves, we just have to be brave enough to take the journey. As the song goes, “Maybe the point of the story is that it’s never too late to grow”.

Maybe you feel like you’re stuck in a career that doesn’t fit or you don’t have what it takes to pursue your dreams. Christmas teaches us to believe in good things and to have hope in the future. So, believe in yourself and that it is possible for you to make your dreams a reality, and have hope that you can change your future.

Colorado Christian University’s College of Adult & Graduate Studies wants to help you step into your calling and show you that it’s never too late to grow. With flexible online degree programs that are designed for adults, it is possible to complete an Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s degree quickly and affordably. A better future is waiting for you on the other side of graduation. Will you take the journey?

Learn more about Colorado Christian University at This post was created as part of a paid partnership between Colorado Christian University and the Arvada Center.

Arvada Center receives a record-breaking 29 Henry Award Nominations!

The 2018 Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards have been announced, and the Arvada Center has received a record-breaking 29 nominations for awards that recognize our theatre season, directors, designers, actors and ensemble! Our adaption of Sense and Sensibility is the most honored play of the year, and other nominations include recognition of Outstanding Season, directoral nominations for both plays and musicals, and 10 nominations for design

Keep reading for the complete list, and congrats to everyone nominated! Read the list of all nominees from around the city here.

Established in 2006, the Henry Awards serve as the Colorado Theatre Guild’s annual fundraising event. The awards are named for longtime local theatre producer Henry Lowenstein. Nominations are determined through a judging process conducted by more than 45 statewide theatre reporters, educators and assigned judges.


Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company

Outstanding Production of a Play

  • All My Sons, Directed by Lynne Collins

All My Sons cast photo, M. Gale Photography 2018

  • Sense and Sensibility, Directed by Lynne Collins

M. Gale Photography 2018

Outstanding Production of a Musical

  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Directed by Gavin Mayer, Musical Direction by Roberto Sinha

M. Gale Photography 2017

Outstanding Direction of a Play

  • Lynne Collins, All My Sons

Regina Fernandez and Sam Gregory in All My Sons
M. Gale Photography 2018

  • Lynne Collins, Sense and Sensibility

Regina Fernandez and Geoffrey Kent in Sense and Sensibility, M. Gale Photography 2018

Outstanding Direction of a Musical

  • Rod A. Lansberry, A Chorus Line

M. Gale Photography 2017

  • Gavin Mayer, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Sarah Rex in Joseph… M. Gale Photography 2017

Outstanding Musical Direction

  • Roberto Sinha, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Outstanding Actor in a Play

  • Lance Rasmussen, Sense and Sensibility

Lance Rasmussen and Jessica Robblee, M. Gale Photography 2018

Outstanding Actress in a Play

  • Jessica Robblee, Sense and Sensibility

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play

  • Geoffrey Kent, All My Sons

Geoffrey Kent, M. Gale Photography 2018

  • Zachary Andrews, Sense and Sensibility

Regina Fernandez, Zachary Andrews and Jessica Robblee. M. Gale Photography 2018

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play

  • Jessica Austgen, Sense and Sensibility

Jessica Austgen, M. Gale Photography 2018

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

  • Stephen Day, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Aaron Young and Stephen Day, M. Gale Photography 2017

Outstanding Ensemble Performance

  • A Chorus Line

M. Gale Photography 2017

  • Sense and Sensibility

Outstanding Choreography

  • Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, A Chorus Line
  • Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Outstanding Costume Design

  • Clare Henkel, Sense and Sensibility
  • Clare Henkel, Sunday in the Park with George

M. Gale Photography 2018

  • Drew Mathisen, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Outstanding Lighting Design

  • Shannon McKinney, Sunday in the Park with George

Outstanding Scenic Design

  • Brian Mallgrave, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • Brian Mallgrave, Sense and Sensibility
  • Brian Mallgrave, Sunday in the Park with George

M. Gale Photography 2018

Outstanding Sound Design

  • Jason Ducat, All My Sons
  • Jason Ducat, Sense and Sensibility
  • David Thomas, Sunday in the Park with George