Arvada Center Blog

Storytelling tradition of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Storytelling tradition of the Blue Ridge Mountains

by Leslie Simon

Deep in the “hollers” of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can hear the sound of stories old and new being told in kitchens, on front porches and in the farm fields. When electricity was hard to come by, instead of radio and TV you provided entertainment with storytelling. This oral tradition is an important aspect of Appalachian life, with generation after generation passing down stories that teach us about life through historical fables, metaphors, and exaggerated tall tales. Listen closely and you will hear unique speech patterns like double negatives, clever wordplay, and unique spellings (“I’m a-goin’ down the mountain”) that involve much of the language of Colonial America.

This unique tradition of the Appalachian people combines tales from Celtic and European folklore, myths of the Cherokee, fables from African American slave culture, magical tales about meeting oversized animals with supernatural powers, and the ever-popular “Jack Tales” that follow the adventures of the trickster Jack. These Jack tales are kin to popular stories like “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and they teach important lessons in cunning behavior and believing in yourself.

This generational passing down of stories allowed for some very old topics to be kept alive in what residents called “the Back Country.”  When folklore archivists like Richard Chase and Alan Lomax traveled to the Blue Ridge Mountains area after the Great Depression to record these stories for cultural preservation, they found themes and subjects that went as far back as medieval knights and seafaring adventures. Often starting with the mother sharing stories with the children while working around the house, these tales were passed down from generation to generation, a vibrant tradition that still continues to this day.

Ray Hicks, Storyteller

In Bright Star, we see this storytelling tradition carry on. Inspired by the old folksong “The Ballad of the Iron Mountain Baby,” Steve Martin and Edie Brickell have created a story of love, loss, and the hope for a better life that keeps us going. Watch and listen as we follow Alice through years of her life, striving to create a home for herself while pondering over past life choices. We hope Bright Star leaves you with a story that you can pass on to others.

Five things you didn’t realize you knew about Felix Cavaliere

Five things you didn’t realize you knew about Felix Cavaliere

By Leslie Simon

While his name might not ring a bell, the music that he has created over the past six decades certainly does. Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals will take the Arvada Center Outdoor Amphitheatre stage on August 17th, and we can’t wait to get to “Groovin’” with him. Here are five things you didn’t even realize you already knew about Felix Cavaliere. Grab your tickets and get ready to sing along to some classic 1960s tunes that you know and love.

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1. Felix Cavaliere was a member of Joey Dee and the Starliters when they had their million-record-selling hit “Peppermint Twist.”

They were the house band for the popular Times Square rock-and-roll hangout turned celeb-filled discotheque, the Mafia-run Peppermint Lounge in Manhattan. The club became a launchpad for the dance craze “The Twist.” Since The Twist was a dance where the partners didn’t touch, women no longer had to have a man leading them, and this helped set the tone for the upheavals of social mores in the 1960s.

2. Felix sang and played the Hammond B-3 organ in the seminal 1960s band The Rascals, with Atlantic Records changing their name to The Young Rascals from 1965-1968.

He was one of the early “blue-eyed soul” performers, taking his musical inspirations from R&B and soul music, and artists like Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. The Rascals had their big break when Sid Bernstein, famous for bringing The Beatles to America, was looking for the next big thing. Sid saw them play at The Barge in Long Island, became their manager, and got them signed to Atlantic Records.

Rascals on tour in Hawaii


3. The Rascals had #1 hits with the R&B-influenced songs “Groovin’,” “Good Lovin’,” and “A Beautiful Morning,” which they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and more. They were the first rock band to play with an orchestra, and they performed to a full crowd at Madison Square Garden with 40 orchestral musicians sharing the stage.


4. “People Got To Be Free” was a political protest song promoting peace and love, and was written after Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.

In their efforts to have an integrated audience, The Rascals demanded that a black musical act must be on the bill for every one of their shows. Unfortunately, this meant that they basically couldn’t play in the South, and it was a disaster for the band. This was the beginning of the end for The Rascals, but they are commended for progressive thinking and standing by their beliefs.


5. Steven Van Zandt, guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and star of The Sopranos, is a huge fan who considers them the first rock and roll band, and inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Van Zandt produced a series of Broadway performances that he calls a “bio-concert” which contained live performances by The Rascals, complimented by archival footage and video reenactments.

What’s your favorite soundtrack?

What’s your favorite soundtrack? Summer Comic Con playlist

By Amberle N.

Summer is a season of excitement, for new hobbies and new people, and for those amazing summer events that happen once a year! We look forward to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Tour De Fat, or Comic Con every summer. And epic summer days should be filled with epic music.

Here are some songs to get you excited for the Arvada Center’s own journey to Comic Con. As you enjoy the music, think of all the adventures that you’ll have, all the new friends that you’ll meet, and all the relaxing you’ll do with who and what you love. So haul out that boom box, sling on some sun screen, and listen to our summer playlist of pop culture favorites. Then come see the songs of Comic Con played live by the Colorado Symphony at the Arvada Center on Sunday, July 21.

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“Gravity Falls Main Title Theme” by Brad Breeck, from Gravity Falls

“Imperial March” by John Williams, from Star Wars – performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

“The Avengers” by Adam Silvestri, from The Avengers

“I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran, from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

“Hopes and Dreams” by Tobi “Radiation” Fox, from Undertale

“Game of Thrones Piano Medley” by Costantino Carrara, Original pieces by Ramin Djawadi, from Game of Thrones

“Test Drive” by John Powell, from How To Train Your Dragon

“I Was Born for This” by Austin Wintory, from Journey

“Love Like You” by Rebecca Sugar, from Steven Universe


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 Arts & Ales Festival Musical Acts

Getting to Know Arts & Ales Festival Musical Acts

By Leslie Simon

This year at our annual Arts & Ales Festival on August 24, patrons will be entertained by three great local acts- The Dylan Miles Experience, Rastasaurus, and The River Arkansas. Whether your musical style is classic rock, reggae or folk, the Arvada Center has everything you need for a full day of handmade art, handcrafted beer, homegrown entertainment and family fun. Get your tickets today and save – prices go up the day of the event!

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Dylan Miles Experience – Musical child prodigy Dylan Miles is no stranger to performing at festivals. This student of the guitar program at Denver School of the Arts has been playing on stage since he was only a few years old. As Dylan has gotten older, he has sat in with bands such as North Mississippi All-Stars and currently fronts his own group, the Dylan Miles Experience. Despite his age, Dylan has a wide range of musical influences that span decades- Talking Heads, The Rolling Stones, Phish and more. Like his idol Jimi Hendrix, this lefty wows audiences with his nimble guitar skills and effortless improvisation. Come and dance to covers of funk, punk, blues and rock classics this year at the Arts & Ales Festival when Dylan takes the stage at 10 am. Great for all ages, make sure to bring your kids and let them be inspired and influenced by the talented Dylan Miles.


Rastasauraus – One part reggae, one part rock and one part jam make Rastasaurus one of the premier acts in our thriving local reggae scene. Dubbing their style “New American Reggae,” Rastasaurus has been performing on stages across Colorado since 2011. Feel good reggae beats and vocals blend into psychedelic guitar solos creating music that promotes good times and a great message. Rastasaurus takes the stage at 12:30 pm, so grab a brew and get ready for an irie dance party.


The River Arkansas– When The Haunted Windchimes member Mike Clark began penning a collection of songs about the human condition in 2014, he didn’t realize that it would turn into a new band with a life of its own. Good fortune and good timing brought the members of The River Arkansas together, and with a folk-Americana sound that sounds ready to tour with alt-country’s Sturgill Simpson, they have enchanted crowds across Colorado and beyond. Anchored by Clark’s soulful, gravelly vocals, the band is rounded out by some of Colorado’s best musicians- and it shows in the delivery and sound. Make sure to catch The River Arkansas when they hit the stage at 3:00 pm.