Arvada Center Blog

Kate Gleason on creating and performing multiple characters in Plaza Suite

By Leslie Simon

Three marriages in turmoil. Well, two marriages in turmoil, and one marriage that might not even happen if the bride-to-be doesn’t come out of the bathroom! Suite 719 at the Plaza Hotel sees a lot of activity, from the absurd to the dramatic. Traditionally, the play is cast with the same actors playing different characters in three one-acts, a sort of mini-repertory, and Plaza Suite’s Kate Gleason spoke with us on preparing and playing multiple characters in the same play.

In Plaza Suite, you play a different character in each of the three acts. As an actor, how do you prepare for multiple roles like this?

The great fun of developing a character, no matter what project, is finding out what makes them tick. I usually start at the beginning of the script with specific questions: Where do they come from? What brought them to this particular moment? What do they want? How do they get it? What are the stakes at any given moment? The added bonus in doing three one-acts is that you get to do this detective work three times, and you find out what connects them and what makes them distinct from one another. The fun lies in the investigation.

What makes playing Neil Simon characters special?

I am an unabashed fan of Neil Simon. I consider him a true artist, in league with Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Jonathan Swift. I’ve directed two of his plays, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound, and also taught a Neil Simon scene study class for DCPA Education. What I found was a master of the comic drama. The comedy lies in reality and it is always character driven. It’s what makes GREAT comedy- the laughs emerge from the truth in the moment. It’s a kind of heightened non-fiction and a joy to play. Simon said every play he has written was a drama with “comic moments.” When warned by Lillian Hellman not to mix comedy with drama, Simon replied, “if it’s mixed in life why can’t you do it in a play?” As an audience, we see ourselves up there on stage and we share in the experience because even in the absurdity, it feels real.

You will also be a part of our Black Box repertory company again next spring. What is that like to work with the same people for three overlapping plays?

It all comes down to trust. The plays are all different but the faces are the same. You start counting on those faces. We develop a shorthand with each other. We PLAY. We are allowed to be creative and messy because we are all in this together. Some of these people I have known and worked with, some are new faces, some are fellow artists I have admired but never worked with, but when we all get in the room at the beginning of that rep season, we know we are all on the same team. We are all in this together for the long haul. It’s a rare and extremely valuable experience, and I feel VERY lucky to be on the team.

What has acting and directing taught you about life?

Well, this is a BIG question… I suppose the best answer I can think of is something that was told to me by my friend, Allison Watrous. She was working with some teenagers, and they said acting was like learning how to be a “professional human.” What they meant, of course, is that as actors and directors we step into someone else’s shoes (sometimes literally) and we tell their story. That’s what we do: we are storytellers. And in the telling of the story we can, and often do, learn something about ourselves and others. It can be a noble adventure. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s enlightening. Sometimes it’s hilarious. But it’s NEVER boring. Kinda like life.




The 2019 Henry Award Nominations Are…

The 2019 Henry Award Nominations Are…

by Amberle N.

The 2019 Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards have been announced, and the Arvada Center has received 17 nominations for awards that recognize our theatre season, directors, designers, actors and ensemble! Our adaption of The Diary of Anne Frank was notably recognized for direction, design, its ensemble cast, and the acting of 16-year-old Darrow Klein who starred as Anne. We were also nominated for Outstanding Production of a Play and Musical, for new work Sin Street Social Club by Jessica Austgen, and for lighting, choreography and set design.

Keep reading for the complete list, and congrats to everyone nominated!

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 – The Diary of Anne Frank, Directed by Christy Montour-Larson

Annie Barbour, Darrow Klein, Emily Paton Davies and Larry Cahn in The Diary of Anne Frank; Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Production of a Musical – ELF – The Musical- Directed by Gavin Mayer, Musical Direction by Christopher Babbage

Josh Houghton in Elf – The Musical; Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Direction of a Play – Christy Montour-Larson, The Diary of Anne Frank

The cast of The Diary of Anne Frank; Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Actor in a Play– Geoffrey Kent, Sin Street Social Club

Geoffrey Kent stole the show – and some hearts – as the rakish pirate Wilmore, and was also featured in The Moors, as well as choreographing fights for the repertory season. We’re excited for him to direct Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express this spring.

Geoffrey Kent and Lance Rasmussen; Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Actress in a Play– Darrow Klein, The Diary of Anne Frank

16-year-old Darrow Klein moved everyone night after night in her role as Anne.

Darrow Klein in The Diary of Anne Frank; Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical – Ian Coulter-Buford, Trav’lin – The 1930s Harlem Musical

Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Ensemble Performance –  The Diary of Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank starred Darrow Klein, Larry Cahn, Regina Fernandez, Annie Barbour, Emma Messenger, Abner Genece, Lance Rasmussen, Zachary Andrews, Daniel Crumrine and Emily Paton Davies.

Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Choreography Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Mamma Mia! and Elf – The Musical

Mamma Mia!; Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding New Play or MusicalSin Street Social Club by Jessica Austgen, Directed by Lynne Collins

This new work commissioned by the Center is a bold new take on Aphra Behn’s restoration comedy classic play The Rover, adapted by Denver playwright Jessica Austgen.

The cast of Sin Street Social Club; Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Costume Design, larger budget Clare Henkel, The Diary of Anne Frank

Annie Barbour, Darrow Klein and Daniel Crumrine in The Diary of Anne Frank; Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Lighting Design, larger budget – Shannon McKinney, The Diary of Anne Frank, & Jon Olson, Educating Rita

John Hutton in Educating Rita; McLeod Creative

Outstanding Scenic Design, larger budget – Brian Mallgrave, The Diary of Anne Frank

This season, his outstanding sets will be featured in Plaza Suite, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Small Mouth Sounds.

Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Sound Design, larger budget -Jason Ducat, The Diary of Anne Frank, & Becca Pearce, Educating Rita

Emily Van Fleet and John Hutton; McLeod Creative


Winners will be announced at a gala event July 22 at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

Getting to Know……. Riders In The Sky

By Leslie Simon

Giddyup to the Arvada Center this summer for a rootin’ tootin’ good time! On June 15, Grammy-winning western music and comedy group Riders In The Sky take to the Arvada Center outdoor amphitheatre. The “singing cowboy phenomenon” started in the 1970s, and Riders In The Sky continue this entertaining tradition for families everywhere.

While many fans have been following their career for decades, younger fans may know them from a less-expected place- Pixar’s Toy Story! It’s only fitting that this band of cowboys would create a medley of songs for the Woody’s Roundup: A Rootin’ Tootin’ Collection of Woody’s Favorite Songs Toy Story 2 album. With names like Joey the Cow Polka King, Woody Paul, Ranger Doug and Too Slim, Riders In The Sky sound like they would fit right in with Woody and his pals. This family-friendly night will see cowboy hijinks, classic country and western tunes, thrilling rope tricks and more!

Listen to Woody Paul, “King of the Cowboy Fiddlers,” as he fiddles faster than a hot knife through butter. Keep watching Woody Paul as he becomes “King of the Clothesline” and performs daringly silly rope tricks. Be astounded as Ranger Doug shows off his yodeling prowess and entertains with the song “That’s How A Yodel Was Born.” You’ve got Too Slim on the upright bass (that sometimes wears a bandana around its neck!), and Joey the CowPolka King bringing the party with his accordion. Or as he calls it- the “Stomach Steinway.”

Get your tickets today to see “America’s Favorite Cowboys” and get ready for a night of laughs, groans, one-liners and two-steppers!

Buy Tickets

Dinner and a show this summer in Arvada!

Dinner Before the Show

by Leslie Simon

Let’s go out to dinner and see a concert! You’re yearning for a good night out on the town, and Arvada has so many great spots, how do you even begin to choose? This summer, we are making it easy for you by creating this concert and restaurant pairing guide that covers our entire Summer Concert Series.




June 15 – Riders In The Sky & Hot Club of Cowtown

Looking for a casual night of Western swing and country tunes? Grab some down-home cooking at 4 Barrel Bar & BBQ. Built in a former Texaco service station, 4 Barrel offers up ribs, pulled pork and all the other usual BBQ favorites. Make sure to try their special Arvada Hash- tater tots covered in pulled pork and green chili. It goes great with double-bill Riders In The Sky and Hot Club of Cowtown, two western favorites that entertain audiences young and old.

Riders In The Sky & Hot Club of Cowtown



June 29- Orquesta Akokán, with Baracutanga

Latin music makes us think Latin food and drink, and Global Goods and Coffee Shop makes the best cortado in town! Popular in Cuba, this coffee drink is an espresso mixed with warm milk, and goes great with their Panini-pressed sandwiches. Afterwards, head over to the Arvada Center for Cuban big band Orquesta Akokán, where driving mambo rhythms and exuberant horns will have everyone on their feet.

Orquesta Akokán Tickets




June 30: The Denver Brass: Awesome Summer Mix!

The Denver Brass: Awesome Summer Mix concert blasts to the past with popular songs like “Hey Jude” and the Ghostbusters theme, getting us in the mood for another blast from the past- pinball! Play the silver ball at SomePlace Else Brewery before the show and feel like a kid again.

Denver Brass Tickets


July 11: The Colorado Symphony presents Mozart Under Moonlight

With guitars available to play right there, we think Mozart would feel right at home in this live music friendly coffeeshop. A staple in Olde Town Arvada since 1993, La Dolce Vita serves up locally-made quiche, ice cream, coffee and live tunes. So grab a piece of coffee cake from this local favorite before seeing another local favorite- the Colorado Symphony performing Mozart Under Moonlight!

Mozart Under Moonlight



July 13: The Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra

Brewing up their own special beers and winning awards for it, New Image Brewing has really upped the brewery game in Olde Town Arvada. Head to their taproom and try out a Better Together India Pale Ale, then come over to the Arvada Center to hear another the music of a duo that is also better together- Ray Charles and Count Basie! The Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra graces our outdoor amphitheatre again this summer, this time playing selections from the 2006 album “Ray Sings, Basie Swings.”

CJRO Tickets



July 15: Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo

When we think New York City, the first thing to come to mind is pizza! Stop by Homegrown Tap and Dough for a soda and a slice before heading over to see one of New York City’s brightest stars- Pat Benatar. Pat Benatar and her husband Neil Giraldo have been making NYC-gritty music together for 40 years, but sound as fresh as if they just met a year ago.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo



July 21: A Symphonic Tribute to Comic Con

As a kid, comics and cartoons went hand-in-hand with sugary cereals on Saturday mornings. Now that we are adults, we can have cartoon-colored breakfast cereals any day of the week. Head over to The Cereal Box for gourmet cereal with any toppings you want before seeing the Colorado Symphony Tribute to Comic Con show at our outdoor amphitheatre. Stay forever young as the symphony performs songs from video games and pop culture.

Comic Con Concert Tickets



August 4: George Thorogood and The Destroyers

Dive bar vibes and an old-school jukebox- definitely the kind of place where you can imagine George Thorogood sitting at the bar, or playing loudly over the speakers. Feel bad to the bone grabbing a drink at 12 Volt Tavern before jamming out under the stars to one of rock and roll’s most famous bad boys.

George Thorogood



August 14: Justin Hayward, with Michael Dawes

Justin Hayward from The Moody Blues brings a lot of class wherever he goes, so set the tone of the night right with a delectable pre-show seafood dinner at Smokin Fin’s. It’s the perfect start for a great night with someone you love. Opener Michael Dawes rounds out the night with an English fingerstyle guitar technique that will leave the audience intently listening to every note.

Justin Hayward



August 17: Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals

With over 1,400 kinds of whiskey, School House Kitchen and Libations can get anyone ready for some “Groovin’.” Hit up this popular schoolhouse-themed bar and restaurant before Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals play at the Arvada Center- it’s only fitting since they were playing at the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles when their first number one song “Good Lovin’” broke.

Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals



August 24: The Colorado Ballet – An Evening Under the Stars

Opened in 1933, the Arvada Tavern has a cozy speakeasy feel that can bring romance to any night out on the town. Stop by the tavern for a specialty cocktail before heading over to see the Colorado Ballet – An Evening Under the Stars. If the night goes well, you can head back to the tavern after the show for a late-night cocktail, as they stay open until 2 am on the weekends and 12 am during the week.

Tickets for the Ballet



August 29: Legends of Rock – 50 Years of Woodstock

Sausage, pretzels, beer….. sounds like the food court at a festival! Kline’s Beer Hall will get you in that festival mood with homemade sausages and local brews before we celebrate 50 years of Woodstock with Legends of Rock here at the Arvada Center. Come see Big Brother & the Holding Company, Vanilla Fudge and more as we revisit the vibes of 60s psychedelia with the bands that created the sound.

Legends of Rock Tickets



September 6: Squeeze, with X

This year before the Squeeze Songbook Tour at the Arvada Center, get “Tempted” by one of the everchanging beers on tap at Denver Beer Co. Their outdoor patio is the perfect place to get into a happy and light mood before you see bestselling English pop band Squeeze take the stage at our outdoor amphitheatre.

Squeeze Tickets



If you get hungry during the show- have no fear! Steuben’s Arvada will have a pop-up kitchen here at the Center serving many of their crowd favorites during each summer performance. Don’t miss their chicken and waffle cones or the vegan-friendly Impossible Burger. Full menu available at

Denver dance scene pivots and turns: 15 years with Wonderbound’s Sarah Tallman

By Leslie Simon


As Denver grows, so grows its dance scene. For 15 years, esteemed Colorado dancer Sarah Tallman has entertained fans with her fierce ballet performances with award-winning local dance company Wonderbound. 2019 marks her final year performing as a full-time dancer, but audiences need not be worried- she will still be working behind-the-scenes creating new works and guiding future generations of Colorado dancers through her unique and powerful choreography. We spoke to Sarah about her 15-year journey with Wonderbound, having transcendent experiences while performing, and what she sees for the future of our local dance scene. Join us here at the Arvada Center on June 14-15 for Wonderbound’s production of Boomtown and see Sarah dance in her final two performances.

Sarah Tallman and Ben Youngstone, photos by Amanda Tipton

Q: What has working with Wonderbound over the course of 15 years taught you about yourself?

A: Oh my goodness… I love this question. Over the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to appear in over 30 Garrett Ammon ballets, which means there has been an enormous opportunity to explore different characters and emotional arcs that humans experience in the course of a day or even a lifetime. Through that exploration, I have observed myself navigating both the simple and the complex emotions that we all go through. They are all reminders that we are alive!

Each of these roles encouraged me to look within and explore myself. As I journeyed through creating the most authentic expressions of each of these characters and roles, it’s been an opportunity to explore the most authentic expression of who I am and how I interact in the world. The more I deepened into the nuances of who I am or who I think I am as an individual, the deeper I have been able to move through the art form. I have learned a lot about love and what it feels like to express that love. I’ve learned to be rigorous and have fun while doing it!

Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Q: What’s your most memorable moment in working with Wonderbound?

A: Wow. There are so many moments that I have cherished; it’s difficult to distill them into one! I absolutely adore performing and have had transcendent experiences on stage where I felt really locked in with the moment. In those instances, the technique and the emotions simultaneously clicked, and I became a conduit of the work rather than a person executing moves. Those moments feel almost like out-of-body experiences, which is funny because it’s through the body that they have taken form. Those experiences make way for a connection and a deepening of our own humanity. My hope is for at least one person to feel something move within them or to ask a deeper question of themselves. I have seen and experienced these moments with my co-workers as well. It’s quite remarkable.

I also value the relationships we create with our many community education programs. Very recently, I observed a 3rd grader completely change his physiological capacity within a matter of seconds after being exposed to dance. Dance is for everybody, and to observe its resonance with the community as an audience member or participant makes for memorable moments.



Q: What will you miss the most about dancing full-time?

A: I will miss working in the studio with Garrett in the creation of a new solo, and the time with Dawn as a coach. It’s been an unexpected gift to spend the majority of my career originating new roles in brand new ballets that re-awaken the art form. These types of exchanges come along once in a lifetime. I appreciate each one of them and hold them dear to my heart.

The nature of these experiences have allowed me to sink my teeth into the work and go deeper. That’s the secret, when you find work you love, keep going. I can compare it to seeing the ocean for the first time. The ocean is beautiful from the shoreline, but when you jump in and see what’s beneath, there is suddenly an entire world beyond what was witnessed at first glance.

The rigorousness of this type of process has inspired me to create these types of relationships with future artists as I continue my journey as a choreographer. I will miss the everyday vigorous nature of dancing full-time and the connections that are created with audiences and co-artists. I will miss performing, and at the same time, I look forward to discovering new realities through working on the other side of the room as an artistic team member at Wonderbound.

Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Q: There is an important symbiotic relationship between your writing and your choreography. Can you walk us through your process in creating a new work?

A: Absolutely! Each time I create a new work, I know a little more about what might happen throughout the process, but no two processes are alike. Firstly, I spend a lot of time with the music before I’ve attempted to make even one step. The music generally will cultivate some sort of feeling within me that will then create images in my brain and off I go. My next step is to sit down with paper and pen and just start to free-write. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. As I step into the studio for the first time, I have an outline of the beginning, middle and end of the work. That being said, it’s just as important to not get attached to the “plan” on paper in order to give space to what comes forward once the steps are created.

I’ll often go back to the writing throughout the process. The words help me to envision and create textures, nuances and concepts as the ballet begins to unfold. The next steps are sort of rinse and repeat. At the end of the day, I take what I have learned in the studio and start to form pieces of a puzzle until it’s complete. I lean into the dancers’ artistic voices and interpretations to help further the process and together we begin to make connections.


Q: How does your yoga practice affect your dance practice?

A: I first became a student of yoga at a summer program years ago. I initially fought the training, but then realized it allowed me to experience and understand technique in a different way. Essentially, I used it as a way of cross training. I soon discovered it also provided time to listen to my body and sense my environment differently. Yoga has helped to create a balance internally and externally which prepares me for whatever a rehearsal day or performance might bring.


Q: What changes have you seen in the Denver dance scene over the past 15 years?

A: Denver has changed so much over the last 15 years. It’s really become a city that values art and dance in particular. The level of awareness and our community’s artistic palate has become more diverse. There is no formula to what our audiences desire to experience, other than that they know it will always transcend and surprise. Art has been and will continue to be the heartbeat and grounding of a community. The more we push the envelope, the more we clearly carve a place for dance to exist. It’s impossible not to see art at the forefront of this city’s development. Simply driving down the street, one can’t help but notice the immersive quality of art. It truly is everywhere. I believe Wonderbound has been at the forefront of changing what we can do with our art form. Wonderbound’s collaborative vision has created a palpable energy, making it a stalwart for dance in Denver.

Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Q: What changes do you hope to see in the next 15 years?

A: My hope for the next 15 years is that we continue to push the boundaries of what is being created. Curiosity, exploration, wonder. These are all important attributes that will carry Denver forward. It’s important to respect what has been and then give way to future moments as they unfold. Denver has a very real opportunity to become a destination city for art as much as it is for its environmental attractions. We can evolve a city that people come to in order to see world class dance.