Arvada Center Blog

Theatre From Every Angle

What is theatre-in-the-round?

by Leslie Simon

 “Give me the best seat in the house!”

“Well, they are ALL the best seat when it’s theatre-in-the-round.”

This spring season, the Arvada Center’s Black Box Theatre has undergone a significant change, converting to a brand new configuration that brings the audience closer to the plays. “Theatre-in-the-round” takes background scenery out of the equation, placing all the emphasis on the actors and providing extraordinary theatre at every angle.

Stage model for Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, designed by Brian Mallgrave.

Also known as arena theatre or central staging, this layout puts the action in the center of the room and places the audiences around the stage on all sides. The stage can be a circle, square, octagon, icosagon – whatever polygon or shape the director desires. While the acting space may be at the same level as the audience, you sometimes see the stage sunken down into a pit, or alternately, on a raised platform. These adjustments make for a more informal viewing experience and create more rapport between audience and actors.

Set rendering for Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, by Brian Mallgrave

However, when the audience surrounds the stage on all sides, unique challenges arise. To ensure that patrons have equal theatrical experiences, lighting, sound and set designers spend a lot of time collaborating and planning. “If my lighting choices are out of step with the scenic, costume, or even sound design, then you get a product that is incoherent and disorienting to the audience,” says Lighting Director Jon Olson. “The best designs are the ones that complement one another.”

There are also interesting obstacles in regards to changing scenery and props. Everything must be done with the audience watching, so directors get to try out solutions like creating choreography that makes taking away furniture and props intentional and part of the action.

Fans of popular culture may recognize this configuration from Elvis Presley’s televised ’68 Comeback Special, which saw the King clad in black leather from head to toe and playing guitar surrounded by adoring fans on all sides. If you have never attended a performance that is “in-the-round,” come see what the fuss is about this spring in the Black Box Theatre.

For a list of performance dates, visit our website at

2019 Arvada Center Year in Review

by Leslie Simon

2019 Arvada Center Year in Review

As the past decade comes to an end, the Arvada Center thinks fondly back on a year of big changes and fun times. From the unveiling of a new look and logo, to celebrating local artists from all mediums, this is our list of 19 moments we loved from 2019.

What were your favorite moments at the Arvada Center in 2019?

  1. We unveiled our new logo!

This year was the beginning of a new chapter for the Arvada Center as we presented a new logo and mission conceived by local Denver agency AOR. Replacing the old logo that we affectionately called “the eyebrow,” the new starburst logo is multi-faceted and dynamic, and accurately represents who we are and what we do. With a new brand as our backbone, the Arvada Center will continue to act as a beacon of creativity in our community for 2020 and beyond.

  1. We installed a beautiful sign with that new logo on our building.

No longer does anyone have to wonder “what is this large building back here?” For the first time in the Arvada Center’s history, we have a big, beautiful sign with our big, beautiful new logo on our main building. It looks even better when it is lit up at night!

  1. Jessica Austgen’s Sin Street Social Club had its world premiere.

We specially commissioned local thespian powerhouse Jessica Austgen to write a new play, and this past spring in the Black Box Theatre, audiences laughed until they cried as they watched the world premiere of Sin Street Social Club, her hilarious adaptation of Aphra Behn’s The Rover. Aphra’s play was perhaps the first known play written by a woman, and she paved the way for other smart, talented women such as Austgen.

Zachary Andrews and Lance Rasmussen in Sin Street Social Club – photo by Matt Gale

  1. The Diary of Anne Frank was the highest-grossing play in our Black Box Theatre history.

The Black Box had its most successful and highest-grossing play ever with The Diary of Anne Frank, directed by Christy Montour-Larson. Extra performances had to be added, and the Arvada Center was packed with school groups coming for our special school matinee performances.

  1. Darrow Klein (Anne Frank) won a True West award.

It’s no easy feat portraying one of the world’s most famous teenagers, but local talent Darrow Klein brought authentic heart and pathos to her portrayal of Anne Frank – and her riveting performance won her a True West award! We can’t wait to see what 2020 brings for Darrow.

Darrow Klein as Anne – photo by Matt Gale

  1. Bright Star regional premiere received much critical praise.

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s bluegrass-tinged Broadway musical Bright Star had its regional premiere this past fall here at the Arvada Center, and critics and patrons alike showered the production with praise – in particular the clear, robust vocals of lead actress Merideth Kaye Clark.

Dieter Bierbrauer (Jimmy Ray Dobbs) and Merideth Kaye Clark (Alice Murphy) in Bright Star – photo by Matt Gale

  1. Trav’lin – The 1930s Harlem Musical had a special visit from Co-Bookwriter Gary Holmes

Co-bookwriter Gary Holmes was on deck and in person to celebrate the regional premiere of Trav’lin – The 1930s Harlem Musical. Toes were tappin’ and fingers were snappin’ as the Harlem Renaissance/ Tin Pan Alley-influenced songs stuck in audiences’ heads for days after.

Natalie Oliver-Atherton
(Billie) and Milton Craig Nealy (George Walker) – photo by Matt Gale

  1. A Christmas Carol – The Musical was presented with an all-local cast.

Larry Cahn led the way with his empathy-inducing portrayal of the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge in the Arvada Center production of A Christmas Carol – The Musical. The production saw an all-local cast performing this beloved holiday favorite to their hometown families, friends, and fans.

Larry Cahn as Scrooge – photo by Matt Gale

  1. Arvada Center Literary Series kicked off with Salman Rushdie.

They don’t get more internationally renowned than author Salman Rushdie, and a sold-out crowd listened and laughed at the inaugural event for our new Arvada Center Literary Series. The Salman Rushdie event was in partnership with indie bookstore favorite Tattered Cover Book Store, and Rushdie signed copies of his latest novel Quichotte for those in attendance.

Salman Rushdie speaks at the Center – photo courtesy of Tattered Cover Bookstore

  1. National Endowment for the Arts awarded the Arvada Center with the Big Read grant.

The Arvada Center was honored to be the only organization in the state of Colorado chosen as a recipient for the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read grant. We celebrated with interesting discussions and book clubs, and Arvada Center arts instructors held interactive workshops at various Jefferson County Public Library branches. We also hosted the Colorado Book & Arts Festival which centered around the dystopian themes of Big Read book selection Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

  1. Front Range Youth Symphony created a new Teacher of the Year award.

Ms. Kelly Watts was awarded the 2019 Teacher of the Year award, the first award like this given to a music teacher by the Front Range Youth Symphony (FRYS). Students who participate in FRYS also participate in their own schools’ musical programs, with FRYS enhancing rather than replacing that curriculum.

The Front Range Youth Symphony recognized Ms. Kelly Watts as the 2019 Teacher of the Year at the May 6 concert.

  1. Jeffco Schools alumni Austin Parkhill honored with his solo exhibit Unselfie.

The chickens came home to roost as former Jeffco Schools student Austin Parkhill was celebrated with his own solo exhibit as part of our Jefferson County High School Art Exhibition. Teacher Keith Oelschlager also had a solo exhibit during this annual exhibition.

  1. The third installment of Art of the State took over the Center.

Art of the State 2019, the third installment of this juried exhibition, saw art from all mediums by 135 local artists from throughout the state of Colorado. Jeffco Schools’ Warren Tech provided the poster art design, and was onsite screenprinting t-shirts and sweatshirts.

  1. The celebration of the 10th anniversary of seminal art book Colorado Abstract: Paintings and Sculpture.

In partnership with Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of Colorado abstract art book Colorado Abstract: Paintings and Sculpture by Michael Paglia and Mary Voelz Chandler. The Arvada Center hosted Colorado Abstract +10: A Survey, and Kirkland Museum held the complementary exhibit Colorado Abstract +10: A History which celebrated the history of abstraction in Colorado, and the artists who led the way.

Clark Richert, chronosphere – photo by Leslie Simon

  1. Brothers of Brass provided sassy, brassy tunes for our Mardi Gras Parade in Olde Town Arvada

Known for their upbeat renditions of both classic jazz favorites and newer danceable tunes, local horn-and-drum outfit Brothers of Brass joined forces with the Arvada Center and Olde Town Arvada and threw a festive Mardi Gras second line parade that saw festive participants dancing along through the streets of downtown Arvada.

  1. The Colorado Symphony played the music of Comic Con.

The Colorado Symphony delighted audiences with their performance “Symphonic Tribute of Comic Con,” containing orchestral renditions of songs from various video games and movie soundtracks including The Empire Strikes Back, Tron, and Harry Potter.

  1. Steuben’s Arvada hosted a summer pop-up kitchen during our outdoor concerts.

Local favorite Steuben’s Arvada fed hungry tummies at our outdoor concerts this year with their summer pop-up kitchen. Patrons were delighted with having the option to eat some of their signature dishes, as well as a specially created Fried Chicken Waffle Cone.

  1. Breakout stars Orquesta Akokán impressed music lovers during our Summer Concert Series.

Daptone Records’ Orquesta Akokán had people moving and grooving during the Cuban Big Band’s stop at the Arvada Center Outdoor Amphitheatre on their biggest American tour yet.

  1. Ceramics classes studio got major facelift and operated at peak capacity.

With a second kiln added and major facelift done to the studio, the ever-popular ceramics program continued to grow and keep up with demand in 2019. Two sales each year at the Center allow patrons to purchase some of the beautiful ceramics made by these talented students.

Matt Gale Photography