2020 TRUE WEST AWARD: PHAMALY TAKES 'HONK' TO JAPAN

True West Awards Phamaly in Japan

Component GradientStart is not available in React's context. It is defined in agility, however. Please check React Dev tools for props.

'Theatre is beyond language. It was just so powerful to see first-hand how theatre can unite and transform thousands of miles from home.'

– Stacey D'Angelo, 'Honk' Director

By John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist

Some say love, music and math are the only truly universal languages. “But living with a disability certainly can be a universal emotional experience,” says Stacey D’Angelo, Director of Phamaly Theatre Company’s international production of “Honk.”

Adam Russell Johnson Phamaly HonkYou don’t have to share a language or a culture or a lifestyle or even a hemisphere to truly understand another human being when you both share the challenge of, say, living from a wheelchair or without an vital sense like hearing or sight.

Members of Denver’s acclaimed disability-affirmative theatre company certainly found their common humanity with hundreds of Japanese strangers in February, when they traveled to Tokyo for two goodwill stagings of “Honk” as part of the international True Colors Festival celebrating diversity and inclusion.

“Honk,” a musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling,” brings a contemporary hipness to not being as cool as everyone else. It teaches the gentle message that beauty lies within us, and that being different should be cause for celebration. And that’s a message right out of the Phamaly Theatre Company playbook.

Phamaly’s reason for being is to effect greater inclusion, participation and respect for people with disabilities in all facets of society through their innovative productions, which create performance opportunities for actors with disabilities.

Phamaly opened its 31st season with a two-week run of “Honk” at the Aurora Fox. It was created in collaboration with Japan’s Nippon Foundation, and making the production all the more culturally impactful was the inclusion of two young Japanese actors with disabilities in the cast. When Ken Kanokozawa and Hiroko Higashino traveled to Denver for the making of the show, it was the first time either had been anywhere near Colorado.

From 2015: Takeaways from Phamaly's first trip to Japan

Ken Kanokozawa and Sam Barrasso

Ken Kanokozawa and Sam Barrasso sharing the role of The Cat in ‘Honk!’

Kanokozawa, who is 19 and has hearing loss, was cast to play “The Cat.” And so was Phamaly favorite Sam Barrasso, who is blind. Not to take turns, but instead to play the role together. Kanokozawa played the body of The Cat, while Barrasso, often physically intertwined with him on stage, provided the voice.

“At first, I imagined that we’d switch positions and perform one person at a time,” Kanokozawa said through an interpreter. “But when we began the rehearsal, we were told that it’d be two people, constantly moving at the same time. I was quite surprised.”

But he was up for the challenge.

“At rehearsals, I vocalized my best possible English, and Sam tried her best to speak to me,” Kanokozawa said. “But there were definitely frustrating moments at the beginning where I thought, ‘We can’t communicate.’ Just as Japanese and English have different grammar, spoken languages and sign languages have different grammars as well. However, as we continued to rehearse without relying on words, our feelings started to resonate. As they say, communication doesn’t always have to be spoken. We rehearsed using our body language, and that communicated our feelings.”

Of their performances, Alex Miller of OnStage Colorado wrote: "Together, they realize the character in a way no single actor could. Kanokozawa acts as the cat’s physical expression, articulating the sneaky slinkiness with his lithe body and skilled dance moves along with a panoply of hilarious hand and facial gestures. Along the way, he helps guide Barrasso to her marks while she gives voice to The Cat. Together, they are one, and a more beautiful (and very funny) tandem performance is hard to imagine."

After two weeks at the Aurora Fox, Phamaly embarked on its second-ever international goodwill visit, the first being a 2015 trip to Osaka, Japan, with “The Fantasticks.” This time, the mostly different Phamaly ensemble presented two performances of “Honk” for audiences of more than 1,000 at the Toshima-Ku Art and Culture Theatre in Tokyo.

'The Family Tree' offers live holiday comedy from safety of home

“I wanted to bring something to Japan that would allow us to have a shared dialogue about what it is to have a disability, and what it is to be different,” said Phamaly Artistic Director Regan Linton, a prominent voice for inclusion in the national theatre community and the only wheelchair-user to lead a major U.S. theatre company.

“We wanted to demonstrate the talent and extraordinary humanity that people with disabilities have, in the same way that people who don’t have disabilities have. I wanted this to be a production filled with joy and talent and love, so that between our countries, and between our cultures, we can all be supporting each other from thousands of miles away.”

The majority of the audience were Japanese people with disabilities. Sign language, audio description and closed-captioning were provided in two languages. Audiences were allowed to meet and talk with the actors.

Stacey D'Angelo Phamaly HonlFor D’Angelo (pictured right), one of the most memorable parts of the experience came just before each performance, when visually impaired audience members were allowed to go on stage and take a “tactile tour” of the set, allowing them to get a sense of the world of the play they were about to see through touch.

“I feel so grateful that we were all able to have this positive life-changing experience just before another globally life-changing experience (with COVID),” said D’Angelo, also Director of Theatre at the Community College of Aurora.

Playing the lead role of Ugly was certainly life-changing for Adam Russell Johnson, who is a veteran Phamaly actor living with cerebral palsy.

Listen to KGNU's interview with Stacey D'Angelo

“I had never been outside of America, and I learned so many things,” Johnson said. “But what I cherish most is the reiteration of a lesson I’ve long held in my heart: People are incredible and kind, and we should all work together to remind ourselves of tolerance, and the dangers of otherness – and spread love.

“When we can do all that through art, it touches so many hearts.” 

One of those hearts belonged to a young Japanese girl, who said of Johnson’s performance: “I like the scene in the show where Ugly said that he likes not necessarily comfortable places for himself – but (rather), places where a variety of people live together.” 

Radio play: A married couple's Christmas in 'Wales'

Video bonus: Phamaly in Japan with 'Honk'

'Honk': Cast list

  • Adam Russell Johnson: Ugly
  • Ken Kanokozawa and Sam Barrasso: Cat
  • Erin Schneider: Ida
  • Hiroko (Koji) Higashino: Penny, Duckling Billy
  • Toby Yount: Drake, Barnacles, Farmer Voice
  • Jacob Elledge: Turkey, Bullfrog, Boy Voice
  • Kevin Pettit: Greylag, Father Swan
  • Miranda Ireland: Grace, Queenie, Duckling Beaky, Girl Voice
  • Amber Marsh: Dot, Mother Swan, Henrietta, Maggie Pie
  • Shannon Sauer: Lowbutt, Bewick, Duckling Downy
  • Kathleen Traylor: Maureen, Old Woman Voice, Pinkfoot

Creatives:

  • Artistic Director Regan Linton
  • Director Stacey D’angelo
  • Assistant Director Daniel Traylor
  • Stage Manager Darion Ramos
  • Assistant Stage Manager Richard Sauer
  • Choreographer Colleen Mylott
  • Musical Director Martha Yordy
  • Projection and Sound Designer: El Armstrong
  • Lighting Designer: Shannon McKinney
  • Costume Designer: Rachel Finley
  • Scenic Designer: Nicholas Renaud
  • Props Designer: Erin Banta
  • Puppet Designer Cory Gilstrap

Honk Phamaly

Honk Phamaly 2

Home,Reignite the Arts,Donate Now,Donate Now,Corporate Giving,Art Circle,2024-2025 Theatre Season,Renew,Visit Us,View All Events,Roland Bernier: In Other Words,Word Play,Lola Montejo: After Another After,Floyd D. Tunson: Ascent,Anthony Garcia Sr: Pigment,Pamela Webb: Hand + Hammer,Lauri Lynnxe Murphy: Seeing the Trees For the Forest,Pink Progression: Collaborations,Imprint: Print Educators of Colorado,528.0: Regional Juried Printmaking Exhibition,Wood.Works,Carley Warren: Three Pieces,Viral Influence: Art in the Time of Coronavirus,Brady Smith: (Don’t be embarrassed by) Your Trouble with Living,Melody Epperson: 100 Years + 1,Blurring The Line,Narkita Gold: Black In Denver,Art of the State 2022,Into The Woods,One Sheet,The River Bride,Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,Colorado Abstract +10: A Survey,Gary Staab: Second Nature,Flora: Scientific Botanical Illustrations of Colorado Plants,Charlotte's Web,Art + Science,Jeffco Schools Foundation High School Art Exhibition,Wendy Kowynia: Following the Thread,Spring Pottery Sale,Damn Yankees,Bueno: Mark Bueno,Denver Gay Men's Chorus: Divas, Icons and Justice Warriors,The Book Club Play,The Denver Brass: In Pursuit of Leisure,A Night at the Movies with the Colorado Symphony,Toad the Wet Sprocket and Cracker,Ramón Bonilla: The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for me.,Keb' Mo',Boz Scaggs,Lucero,The Ladies of Soul,Ben Folds,Drawn: From The Source,Day of African Culture,Cleo Parker Robinson Dance presents Living the Lush Life,Face Vocal Band,George Thorogood and the Destroyers,Indigo Girls,Big Draw Colorado,Collective Soul,Rockley Instrument Sale,The Laramie Project Talkbacks with Judy and Dennis Shepard,Allyship & Advocacy in Action: Supporting the LGBTQAI+ Community,Emilio Lobato: A Mi Manera A 40-Year Survey,Latitude 37° Art of Southern Colorado,Beautiful - The Carole King Musical,The Laramie Project,Colcha Embroidery of the San Luis Valley,Hazel Miller and the Collective: Christmas with Soul,Fine Art Market,Holiday Pottery Sale,Our Town,Big Band Royalty: Nothin’ But the Blues,Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella Sensory Friendly Performance,Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella,Artist Proof: Print Process at Oehme Graphics,Exhibition Tour and Artist Talk with Sue Oehme,Sue Oehme Inclusions,53rd Annual Jeffco Schools Foundation High School Art Exhibition,Latin Sounds From Legendary Artists,Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812,Robin Cole: Genesis,Matt Christie: Between Then and Now,A Year With Frog and Toad,Noises Off,Standing for Humanity in Gaza and Israel ,3rd Law Dance/Theater,Denver Brass presents: Brass, Camera, Action,CJRO Presents: Lady Sings the Groove with Tatiana LadyMay Mayfield,Spin Doctors with Cracker,Big Richard,The High Kings and Gaelic Storm,Lyle the Crocodile,Preservation Hall Jazz Band,Corinne Bailey Rae,Tower of Power,A Tribute to Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops,Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder,Melissa Etheridge: I’m Not Broken Tour,Mozart Under Moonlight,Orquesta Akokán with Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen,Denver Gay Men's Chorus: Shout!,Swing, Swing, Swing: Benny and Beyond ,Dining Partners,Amplify,Theatre,Upcoming Shows,2024-2025 Theatre Season,Renew,Performances for Students,Auditions,Local Season AEA Auditions,Local Season Non-AEA Auditions,Chorus Auditions for Waitress,Galleries,Current Exhibitions,Gallery Events,Upcoming Exhibitions,Art Sales,Art Submissions,Sculpture Field,History Museum,Archive,Education,View All Classes,Summer Camps,Full Day,Summer Camp Performances,FAQ,Spring Break Camps,Classes for Kids,Classes for Adults,Ceramics,Front Range Youth Symphony,Dance Classes,Links and Forms,Arts Day,Arts Day Outreach,Ageless Adults,Scholarships,Yesterado,Yesterado,Field Trips and Outreach,ECE Field Trips,K-5 Field Trips,Middle and High School Field Trips,Outreach Programs,Preschool Partnership Program,Music and Dance,Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra,Summer Concerts,Humanities,Private Event Rentals,Caterers,Vendors,Straight Talk Series ,Straight Talk with Philip Sneed,COVID’s toll on Colorado theatre: 224 productions and counting ,Straight Talk with Lynne Collins,Straight Talk with Rod Lansberry,Straight Talk with Phamaly, Buntport, Colorado Shakes and Rocky Mountain Rep,Straight Talk with Creede Rep, Town Hall, Candlelight and Theatre Company of Lafayette,Straight Talk with Aurora Fox, BDT Stage, Cherry Creek Theatre and Misfits,Straight Talk with Su Teatro, Vintage, Backstage and Counterweight,Straight Talk with Local Theater Company, Theater 29, The Source and Equinox,Straight Talk with the Denver Center, Jesters Dinner Theatre, Glenwood Vaudeville Revue and Germinal Stage-Denver,Actors' union issues safety guidelines for re-opening,Straight Talk with square product, Forge Light, Springs Ensemble Theatre and Coal Creek Theatre of Louisville,Straight Talk with the Fine Arts Center, Miners Alley Playhouse, Dangerous Theatre and Lone Tree Arts Center ,Straight Talk with Lake Dillon Theatre Company, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and Northglenn Arts,Straight Talk with The Catamounts, Bas Bleu and Thingamajig,Straight Talk with Curious Theatre Company,Straight Talk with OpenStage, Firehouse and Adams Mystery Playhouse,Straight Talk with Platte Valley Players and Theatreworks,Straight Talk with Parker Arts, Stories on Stage and Thunder River ,Staight Talk 2 with Philip Sneed: This much is uncertain,Arvada Center News,Getting to Know The Big Tuna,Getting to Know: Keith Ewer and his Hammered Dulcimer,Understanding Farce in Theatre,2024 Summer Concert Series Playlist Volume 1,Pivoting With,Pivoting with The Black Actors Guild,Pivoting with ... Emily Van Fleet and Nathan Jones,Pivoting With ... Tammy Franklin and the Curtain Playhouse,Pivoting With Nick Sugar and the Town Hall Arts Center,Pivoting With Helen Murray and the Aurora Fox,Pivoting with Edith Weiss and Christy Montour Larson,Pivoting With Scott RC Levy and the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company,Pivoting with Todd Debrecini for Halloween,Pivoting with Ashley Campbell,Pivoting with Meghan Anderson Doyle,Pivoting with Jenna Moll Reyes,Pivoting with Erik Fellenstein,Pivoting with Ray Bailey ,Pivoting with Tara Falk,Community News,Inside the Arvada Center,All About Printmaking Techniques,Humans of the Arvada Center: Meet Collin Parson ,Christina Noel-Adcock,"Bright Star" cast unveils video as message of hope,Humans of the Arvada Center: Meet Christine Moore,Humans of the Arvada Center: Steven Cogswell,Humans of the Arvada Center: Ashi K. Smythe,City of Arvada to install new sculpture in Hoskinson Park,Humans of the Arvada Center Jessie Page,Humans of the Arvada Center Cal Meakins,Humans of the Arvada Center: Adam Stolte,Supreme Court workplace ruling hits home for Lisa Leafgreen,'Time for talk is over': Arvada Center launch 'Amplify' series to raise black male voices,Humans of the Arvada Center Jon Olson ,Humans of the Arvada Center: Abygail Rosales,Revealing The Dialogue,Amplify Epiode 3 launches, series expanding to include black women,Photo Blog: Sweeney Todd Rehearsals,Humans of the Arvada Center: Gabriel Morales,Cleo Parker Robinson dances back in the box with Arvada Center,Amplify turns the mic over to local Black women ,Beth Malone bringing 'joy bomb' to Arvada Center oon September 4,Humans of the Arvada Center: Meet Emily King,Amplify Women Episode 2,Special Book Honors Special Dance Teacher,amplify-series-comes-to-powerful-conclusion,Take a stroll through 'Sculpture in the Field',Lessons from a summer of outdoor theatre in the time of COVID ,Humans of the Arvada Center: John Hamilton,Doreen Montalvo in Denver: Compassion and grit,Betty Hart's presidential promise: Build a bigger tent,Humans of the Arvada Center: Brenna Clendaniel and Sophia Koop,On being Black in Denver and all the colors that it brings,2020 True West Awards: Buntpivot ,2020 True West Awards: Lily Bradford,2020 True West Awards: The Scenesters,2020 True West Awards: Podcastic,2020 True West Awards: Phamaly takes 'Honk' to Japan,2020 True West Awards: Christine Moore,2020 True West Awards: Alive Inside,2020 True West Awards: Michael Ensminger,True West Awards: They Wrote the Book,True West Awards: Rent-A-Pals,True West Awards: Of Spacious Skies,True West Awards: Christopher Page-Sanders,2020 True West Awards: Suffer the little children,2020 True West Awards: Spirit of Giving,2020 True West Awards: Secret Gardeners,2020 True West Awards: Denis Berkfeldt,2020 True West Awards: Amplify,2020 True West Awards: Reclaiming One Star,2020 True West Awards: William Hahn and Jessica Robblee,2020 True West Awards: Lisa Wagner Erickson,20 for 20,Meet the Frasers,Lucy Roucis' final act is a gutpunch,Reunite the Arts Collin Parson,Jodie Steeves and Nancy Terry,Reunite the Arts Lisa Leafgreen,Remembering John Gratkins,Reunite the Arts: From our CEO,Danielle Johnson Q&A,Reunite the Arts Lynne Collins,The Show Must Go On,Diana and Mike Kinsey,Get to Know Kazu Oba,Meet Suzanna Champion,The Gear of Million Dollar Quartet,FRYS and the Symphony,Get to Know Carlou D,Stories From the Studio,Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Lares Feliciano,21 for 21,An interview with Geoffrey Kent: The Liar,An interview with Jada Suzanne Dixon: Stick Fly,An interview with Jessica Robblee: Animal Farm,Fast Facts About Kinky Boots,Costume Department Boots Up,Rod A Lansberry Announces Retirement from Arvada Center,Lynne Collins Named Artistic Director of Arvada Center Theatre,Getting to Know José González,Getting to Know Joan Osborne and Madeleine Peyroux,The Many Sounds of Carlou D,Setting the mood: Into the Woods Set Designer Brian Mallgrave,Into the Woods Directors Note,The River Bride Director's Note,What is Magical Realism?,Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Ana María Hernando,Meet Ceramics Artist Luanne Burke,From student to teacher: Hadley’s story,Tackling the Beast,Things to Know About Our Town,Creating the Look of Our Town: A Q and A with Set Designer Brian Mallgrave,Whatever Lola Wants - A Deep Dive into the Damn Yankees Signature Song,Selling Your Soul - A Pop Culture Favorite,The Book Club Play Reads,Metatheatre Elements in Our Town - When a Play Knows It's a Play,90s Throwback Vibe with Arvada Center 2023 Summer Concert Series,Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra at the Arvada Center,Opening Acts of the Arvada Center 2023 Summer Concert Series,Getting to know Baaba Maal,Big Draw Highlights,The Music of Keb' Mo,Getting to Know Lucero,The People at the Indigo Girls ,Listen to the hits of Carole King with this playlist,Carole King: The Writer Behind The Music,Songs inspired by Matthew Shepard,Summer Internship at The Arvada Center,Arvada Center journeys to Southern Colorado : A Photo Diary,Arvada Center and Colorado Chapter of Free Mom Hugs share the love,Costume Inspiration for Cinderella with Costume Designer Madison Booth,Getting to Know: iZCALLi and ArtistiCO,The Many Faces of Cinderella,Arvada Center awarded Social Impact Theatre Grant from Biller Family Foundation,The music that influenced the music of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,Volunteer,About Us,Ticketing Policies,Authorized Ticketing,Group Tickets,Ticket Discounts,Contact Us,Accessibility,Health and Safety,Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access,Careers,Tours,Adopt An Artwork,Temp,Land Acknowledgement,What To Expect at the Theatre,One Sheet Music,Gift Certificates,Privacy Policy,Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet Seat Map,Gala,Gala Sponsors,Errors,404,Natasha and Pierre Synopsis,Concessions,Summer Preorders