Arvada Center Blog

Squall: A Regional Premiere Presented by The Arvada Center & Modern Muse Theatre Company

Squall, written by Elizabeth Hemmerdinger, is a psychological thriller full of abundant wit. The story focuses on Diana, a celebrated TV journalist, who is a fierce guardian of her privacy. While she is packing her childhood summer home, a young woman arrives on the doorstep with memories of Diana’s recently deceased mother. What follows is a compelling and often humorous game of cat and mouse in which the audience is not always clear just who is the mouse.Squall first premiered in New York City in 1996 and ran at the Tiffany Theatre in Los Angeles a year later. Hailed as, “An intricate puzzle the offers moments of fascination and bitingly funny humor [with] clever twists,” by Back Stage West, the play won the First Choice Award at the U.S. West Theatre Festival, held at the Denver Center in 1998.

Modern Muse Theatre Company is a new professional theater troupe with a passion for the best of both old and new theater traditions. The company is made up of a diverse group of artists committed to presenting powerful, passionate and pertinent work. Productions are presented in association with Global Arts Ltd, a non-profit organization whose mission is to be a catalyst for positive change by illuminating ideas, provoking thought and stimulating discussion. To accomplish this goal, they support projects developed by educators, artists and writers.

Squall is directed by Billie McBride, who was last seen at the Arvada Center directing this season’s The Subject Was Roses, and playing the ruler-wielding Sister in Over the Tavern. Other directoral credits include Stolen Lives at NYC’s Acorn Theatre, As Bees in Honey Drown at the Arvada Center, Phantom at Littleton Town Hall and the Mizel Center’s production of Romeo and Juliet. As an actress, Broadway credits include Torch Song Trilogy, Safe Sex and A Kurt Weill Cabaret. TV appearances include It’s a Miracle, Perry Mason Mysteries and The Shining. McBride won a Denver Post Ovation Award for Best Actress for her performance in WIT and was nominated for Theater Person of the Year in 2003 and 2004.

Martha Harmon Pardee returns to the Arvada Center after 15 years, when last appeared inTerry Dodd’s Amateur Night at the Big Heart. Most recently, she played Linda in Fiction at Curious Theater, Abby in Paragon Theatre’s production of The Mercy Seat and Alice in Retreat from Moscow at the Aurora Fox Theatre. Squall marks Martha’s second Modern Muse production, following her role as Elan in the 2006 production of The Raft.

Karen LaMoureaux makes her Modern Muse debut, and comes back to the Arvada Center after appearing in The Crimson Thread and The Women. Karen has appeared off Broadway in Whirligig, The Comedy of Errors, A Piece of My Heart, and Box and Cox, and toured with the bilingual play Der Talisman. Regional credits include A Christmas Carol at the Denver Center and a leading role in Nine, which garnered her Westword’s Best Actress in a Musical.

April 26 – May 27, 2007
Thursday – Saturday events at 7:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday matinees at 1:30 p.m.

All performances are $20 each. Tickets for seniors over 60 are $18, and for students with a valid are $15.

Buy Tickets Now!

Jimmy Sellars and Marie E.v.B. Gibbons: Residual Memory

Residual Memory

Jimmy Sellars and Marie E.v.B. Gibbons make a perfect, if unlikely, pairing at the Arvada Center.

By Michael Paglia

Published: March 15, 2007

I’ve sometimes been criticized for promoting our own art scene too much, though my detractors often misunderstand my position. It’s not that I want our local institutions to feature only artists from around here, but rather to better integrate them into their exhibition schedules. In championing this cause over the years, I’ve put the screws to the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. More recently, I’ve done it to the Lab in Belmar. And I don’t plan to stop, either, because I think it’s the right thing to do.

I have a rationale for my campaign beyond the do-gooder angle: If you want something to grow, nurture it. If you want it to wither and die, don’t. Give Colorado artists opportunities to show in legitimate non-commercial venues, and they will rise to the occasion almost every time. Don’t allow them to participate, and they’ll never get the chance to demonstrate what they’ve got.

What’s brought these thoughts to mind is Residual Memory, now in its final weeks at the Arvada Center. To come up with this show, exhibition director Jerry Gilmore invited photo-based artist Jimmy Sellars to exhibit alongside ceramics whiz Marie E.v.B. Gibbons, both of whom are longtime habitués of the Denver art scene. Having the capacious Lower Galleries at Arvada at their disposal (instead of Pirate, their normal stamping grounds) encouraged the two to soar. They both created impressive new bodies of work expressly for this do-not-miss show.


Despite the single title, this is not a Sellars-Gibbons duet, but rather two large solos mounted side by side. Though Sellars and Gibbons have exhibited together for many years, the connection between the two is personal and not aesthetic. As a result, their work is completely separated here, so it’s possible to take in the two parts of Residual Memory in any order. Since Sellars occupies the entry gallery, it makes sense to start with his half, then take in the half that’s devoted to Gibbons. At least that’s what I did.

For several years, Sellars has been using G.I. Joe action figures to stand in for human models in his digitally based photographs. In the pieces he created for Residual Memory, Sellars uses the figures to refer to his own memories. In his artist’s statement, he indicates that it was the death of his father that made him realize that reality can quickly be replaced with memory.

Whatever his inspirations were, the finished works are marvelous. Sellars puts his best foot forward with the first piece, a pigmented inkjet print titled “Learning to Walk.” At first glance, it looks like an homage to an Old Master painting in terms of its somber palette and the way the figures have been arrayed across the picture. That made me wonder if its creation was sparked by the Goya-inspired pieces Sellars did for (New) Disasters of War, currently on view at the Mizel Center’s Singer Gallery. I’ll bet there’s a connection.

“Learning to Walk,” like all of the G.I. Joe photos, is staged. But in this case, Sellars created a more elaborate, even epic setting compared to his previous works. He did a landscape background and, in the foreground, placed four G.I. Joes traveling in the same direction. They are in civilian clothes, but somehow there’s the implication of wartime. It could be the theatrical lighting he used when he took the original photo — or maybe it’s the implication of hardship, with one of the figures being urged on by the others along a road in the wilderness. I guess that’s what made me think they were refugees.

In the airy, two-story atrium space, Sellars hung some very large works — notably, “Father,” a multi-part digital print of a G.I. Joe in a dark jacket and wearing gloves, with his arms outstretched across the long, horizontally oriented piece. Also in this section are prints, such as “Memory of Flight,” that use photos of realistic dolls and not action figures. Because of that, they are less edgy and lose the conceptual content brought in by the simulations the G.I. Joes represent.

In the small area beyond the atrium are more G.I. Joe prints. I particularly like “Apostle #3: Son of the Father,” which reads like a painted portrait of a person. But when you notice that the face and hair are made of plastic, the piece gives off just the right oddball zing.

And while we’re on the subject of oddball zing, it’s time to go on to the extremely ambitious and very idiosyncratic Marie E.v.B. Gibbons part of the show. Gibbons is a talented ceramics artist who is especially good at surfaces. Each of the three Gibbons spaces has been conceived as an installation, with two of them anchored by found bathtubs. The imagery of the bathtub is not meant to be capricious, but rather to reinforce Gibbons’s theme in Residual Memory, which is water. All of the pieces here are part of her “My Ocean” series. Gibbons grew up on Long Island and still recalls her love of the sea even though she’s lived in landlocked Denver for many years.

If we pick up the Gibbons portion where we left off with Sellars, the first bathtub we come across is a disgusting rust bucket. The tub relates to the rust oxides Gibbons uses for her ceramics, her chief medium. In “Indulgence,” Gibbons has the bust of a woman on the wall, surrounded by casts of conventionalized lobsters, with the ceramic face and crustaceans finished in a sumptuous rust patina. The tub also resonates with “Collective,” 48 elements cast in clay that are based on fussy claw-foot bathtub details. They have been arranged in a grid of twelve-by-eight and cover one wall. Most of the parts are finished in a white wash, with a few done in rust. It’s a knockout.

The center space is dominated by a figural group on an elevated platform, the surface of which is made of dried clay slip meant to refer to water. The figures have a primitive tribal-art look, as do the boat-shaped bowls being pulled behind them. This piece stood out from the rest of the Gibbonses in the show because of the pointed primitive references in the forms. Though large and impressive, I don’t think it works

Back up front, Gibbons uses the other bathtub, which is filled with blue-tinted water. Beyond it, projected directly on the wall, is a film of ocean waves. On the opposite wall is “Part of Everything,” a sculpture in three parts — one of several in this room. The bowl, the largest part, is placed at the bottom, with a smaller element, the head, in the middle, and the smallest, a roundel, on top. The triangular arrangement lends the piece a hieratic quality, making it seem as though it’s some kind of sacred symbol. This section, with its tub full of blue water, the flickering film and all of the expertly done ceramics, seems like a unified installation, but it’s really a group of separate pieces.

The two-act Residual Memory at the off-the-beaten-track Arvada Center provides a wonderful showcase for Jimmy Sellars and Marie E.v.B. Gibbons, allowing them to stretch out both figuratively and literally. The amount of room at their disposal was the equivalent of half a dozen private galleries or alternative spaces. But even better, it gives the rest of us the opportunity to notice just how good they are — and to realize that they’ve been doing this first-rate work right under our noses.

Rocky Mountain News Article: Different work, one soul

Different work, one soul

Friends’ disparate styles interact in ‘Residual Memory’ at Arvada Center

By Mary Voelz Chandler, Rocky Mountain News
March 12, 2007

Marie E.v.B. Gibbons and Jimmy Sellars would seem to be unlikely art-world soul mates.

Gibbons, 51, was born and grew up on Long Island, and developed a deep and abiding love for the ocean that informs her work in clay and her interest in teaching. Sellars, 37, hails from Independence, Mo., the son of artists who fell under the sway of G.I. Joe dolls as a kid and has used them as the engine that drives his photo-based work on issues of gender and sexuality.

But friends they are, having studios about half a block apart in the Tennyson Street Cultural District, and for the past few years having shown together often despite the disparate nature of their work, as well as in individual exhibitions. Gibbons moved to Colorado in 1977, and Sellars more than a decade later. (The E.v.B., by the way, stands for Elizabeth von Bielefeld, Gibbons’ middle and birth names, and the name of her studio.)

On view now is “Residual Memory,” an umbrella title for two solos at the Arvada Center that pull from the artists’ backgrounds. Gibbons and Sellars also will show together for the third time at Pirate: contemporary art in June, and share thoughts – if not space – as participants selected for the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in July.

Rocky art critic Mary Voelz Chandler caught up with the artists.

How did you two meet?

Marie: On the Internet.

Jimmy: Our paths must have crossed a thousand times, but it wasn’t until we discovered we had good friends who knew each other that we got to know each other.

Marie: I thought, he’s in Aurora, I’m in Arvada. We started emailing, then talking, and then we met at Starbucks.

Obviously, your work plays a big part in terms of your friendship, since you show together so often. Describe each other’s work to me.

Marie: He has found a way to depict emotional spaces. From the very first time I saw the doll photos, I said, ‘What are you doing? You have so captured an emotional space.’ It’s incredible that his models are 7-inch tall dolls. That’s the biggest thing I find that is important. It’s a situation, and it’s charged with emotion. My work is based on life situations, so I connect with that.

Jimmy: It’s how she tells a story, there’s always the feeling of a story. The first pieces I fell in love with captured her total self in them. It’s how she digests them, like a storytelling aspect. And how she treats the surfaces of her work, the surface always feels alive.

You don’t necessarily collaborate on the work itself, but how do you proceed after you decide to show together? Such as the Arvada show, “Residual Memory.”

Marie: We decide what the title is going to be. We go through words. The thesaurus, Wikipedia. We find the perfect word, and this is the show.

Jimmy: But it’s a concept. Then we go do the work, and then we come back together.

Marie: There’s a synchronicity there. (In Arvada) I work in rust and (white) bisque, and he is working in sepia. That wasn’t discussed, but that connection to the title put us both in our own direction, but with some things shared.

Jimmy: Who better to show with that someone who complements your work but is totally different.

How are you different?

Marie: I’m a girl.

Jimmy: I’m a boy. But we both like men. And we have a problem with deadlines. I don’t know what the differences are.

Marie: We approach things differently, but the crux is the same. The core element is what’s solid.

What are you thinking of for the joint show at Pirate? Jimmy mentioned something instructive about the upcoming arts festival?Marie: We’re still mulling.

Jimmy: We both like the idea of education, but we’re also thinking of a huge installation. We’ve always wanted to do a huge installation.

Marie: Do a big nest, and fill it with found objects.

Jimmy: It would be nice to have the opportunity to do something larger.

Residual Memory

What: Work in clay by Marie E.v.B Gibbons and photo-based images by Jimmy Sellars (also on view: “Bebe Alexander: Constructives,” in the Theater Gallery, and the Arvada Artist’s Guild’s 48th Annual Membership Exhibition in the upper gallery)

Where and when: Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada; thrugh April 1

Of note: Artists’ talk 7 p.m. Wednesday

Information: 720-898-7200; Mary Voelz Chandler is the art and architecture critic. or 303-954-2677.

Luminaries chosen for Third Annual Playwrights Showcase !

Luminaries chosen for Third Annual Playwrights Showcase !

July 18-21, 2007

ARVADA, CO – The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities and Red Rocks Community College’s Theatre Arts and Dance program are pleased to announce the guest artists and luminaries chosen for the Playwrights Showcase of the Western Region to be held at the Arvada Center on
July 18-21, 2007.
This event is for playwrights, producers, directors, actors, educators and community members who are interested in sharing a vital experience that celebrates new works and the craft of playwriting.
The Showcase is a unique partnership created to support the original work of playwrights living in 19 western states. The four-day event is designed for enthusiasts of the arts and all interested public. Each day includes day and evening sessions. Original play readings will be followed by critical discussions with a panel of well known theater luminaries and guest artists.

The highly acclaimed panel includes:

  • Richard Dresser
  • Dawson Moore
  • Aoise Stratford
  • Kent Thompson
  • Chip Walton
  • Edith Weiss

The Showcase has been expanded to include four full days of original play readings followed by critical discussions led by a panel of theatre luminaries. In addition, conference attendees will have the opportunity to participate in inspiring workshops and also network with professional playwrights, directors, producers, actors, educators and other theatre artists. We have added two special evening events: the Boot Camp Showcase on Friday, July 20, 2007, featuring excerpts from works by Boot Camp 2007 participants; and, on July 21, 2007, there will be an exclusive, one-night only performance of works of playwrights who were featured in the previous Playwrights Showcase of the Western Region (2004 and 2005). Red Rocks Community College will host the Showcase for July 18 and 19, and the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities will host the events held July 20 and 21, 2007.
Event Registration Fees:
Full Event Registration
(All Showcase events July 18-21 except Saturday evening performance)
Register before 6/1/07 – $100
Register after 6/1/07 – $110

One Day Showcase Registration
(All Showcase events in one day except Saturday evening performance)
Register before 6/1/07 – $25
Register after 6/1/07 – $30

Individual Sessions and Special Saturday Performance
(Morning, afternoon, or evening)
One session only – $15

Special rate for children under age 12 for the Children’s Theatre Session
July 20, 2007 – $5

Boot Camp for Playwrights
July 15-17, 2007 – $120

Registration forms will be available beginning
February 1, 2007.