MEET STEVEN COGSWELL
Steven Cogswell at an Arvada Center volunteer appreciation event. Photo by Sarah Kolb.
NOTE: As we look to reopen our doors and reignite the arts, one thing becomes clear: The key to our creativity is our people. Songs are not sung, sets are not built, choreography is not taught, and canvases are not painted on their own. In our new “Humans of the Arvada Center” series, we are highlighting the heartbeat of the Center: The people who make up the Arvada Center family.
By John Moore and Leslie Simon
Steven Cogswell had severe undiagnosed asthma in elementary school, so he spent most of his recesses indoors.
“I was pretty bright, so they had me do self-directed studies out in the hallway,” said the Arvada Center’s longtime House Manager. “This made for some understandably lackluster social skills, so my parents encouraged me to try out for a school play.
He was cast in that play … “And found my people,” he says.
Steven graduated from Green Mountain High School and went on to become an opera vocal-performance major at the acclaimed University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “I loved singing [Robert] Schumann and [Franz] Schubert, but I realized there wasn’t a career in that – at least for me,” he said.
So Steven “traded in Schumann and Schubert for Lerner and Loewe.” And he’s been on the roller coaster that is a life in the arts ever since.
“Like so many in the theatre world, I have made my living in many ways,” he said. “As a musical-theatre performer, voice teacher, waiter, singing waiter, accountant, box-office representative, massage therapist, director … anything that would pay the bills.” As a House Manager, Steven is akin to a hotel concierge in a hotel. And his more than two decades as a performer turned out to be perfect training for the job.
(Pictured at right: Steven Cogswell at the Arvada Center's 40th anniversary celebration. Photo by Matthew Gale.)
As a performer, Steven has been performing since childhood. In fact, he and Arvada Center President and CEO Philip Sneed were both in a production of "Oliver!" together at the old Bonfils Theatre (now the Tattered Cover Bookstore) in 1977. Steven made 35 appearances over six years at Ye Olde Wayside Inn Dinner Theatre in Berthoud. In Denver, he was a longtime member of the Country Dinner Playhouse’s legendary group of “Barnstormers” – a rotating group of hosts who served dinner and provided pre-show musical entertainment. He also performed in many Country Dinner Playhouse productions including “Phantom,” Oklahoma!” and “Guys and Dolls.” In 2004, he played a gender-bending Kit Kat Girl in BDT Stage’s “Cabaret,” which featured Arvada Center Director of Scenic Design Brian Mallgrave as the Emcee. He also played Enoch Snow in “Carousel” for the Boulder Theatre, and a brother in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Some of his favorite roles have included playing Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha,” King Arthur in “Camelot” and Conrad Birdie in “Bye Bye, Birdie.”
"Steven is a really smart guy, and he can assess a situation in a split-second.” – Melanie Mayner
As a director, Steven’s credits have included a 2009 production of “Phantom” at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse that The Denver Post said “delivers the production that at last realizes the potential envisioned when this $6.2 million gem of a dinner theatre opened in Johnstown 16 months ago.” For that show, Steven was nominated for the 2009 Denver Post Ovation Award for Outstanding Direction (alongside the Arvada Center’s Rod Lansberry for “Miss Saigon"). Steven followed that with a four-star production of “My Fair Lady,” for which he also was honored by The Post’s Ovation Awards. Steven’s eclectic pursuit of knowledge has included studying at the Lang Institute for Canine Massage and Boulder College of Massage Therapy. He has spent many hours as a volunteer for the Denver Dumb Friends League.
Throughout his career as a performer, Steven was drawn to patron services, including stints in the box office at Henry Lowenstein’s Denver Civic Theatre and the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse before his career path led him to the Arvada Center.
“I am so fortunate that I was hired to be the House Manager at the Arvada Center,” he said, “and have now been here for almost 10 years.”
House Managers welcome the public to the theatre and oversee their safety and well-being before, during and immediately after any show. Melanie Mayner, the Arvada Center’s Director of Audience Experience, said Steven’s life in the theatre, his smarts – “and having the softest heart in the world” – have made him perfect for the job.
“There is 15 minutes of crazy every night,” Mayner said of the quarter-hour before a performance begins. “There is so much going on, and you really have to think on your feet. Steven is a really smart guy, and he can assess a situation in a split-second. He’s a good problem-solver, he stays calm, and he’s just lovely to our patrons, our box-office staff and our ushers. He can make it look so seamless that you would never guess how many moving parts there are.”
Working at the Arvada Center, Steven says, “lets me continue my love affair with the arts, and I especially love working alongside our amazing volunteer ushers. “I have learned first-hand the arts can help us be more human. And after all these years, I’m proud to still be a part of that.”
To learn more about the Arvada Center's theatre programming, go to arvadacenter.org
To follow the Arvada Center's #HumansOfArvadaCenter campaign, go to instagram.com