FAC season announcement: Safe or sorry? | Arts News | Arts & Entertainment


‘Tis the season for season announcements, and these days, the reveal of what’s coming up also reveals a lot about the struggle our arts organizations are going through in 2023 to balance equitable community engagement with the pandemic recovery and the ever-unforgiving bottom line.

When Pirronne Yousefzadeh broke her silence earlier this month about her sudden departure as artistic director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s theater division, it was no coincidence that it came two days before the college was to announce the FAC theater company’s 2023-24 season.

It’s now clear that Yousefzadeh’s Dec. 31 departure was directly tied to a conflict between what she saw as her mission to be a change agent at the 100-year-old Fine Arts Center and the veracity of the college’s ongoing commitment to anti-racism. Because the season she planned to announce before her exit looks nothing like the announcement that actually was made last week:

• Oct. 12-29: “Misery” (based on the Stephen King novel)

• Oct. 28-Nov. 19: “Balloonacy” (children’s)

• Nov. 30-Dec. 31: “Elf The Musical”

• Feb. 15-March 3, 2024: “Water by the Spoonful”

• March 2-24, 2024: “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” (children’s)

• May 20-26, 2024: “Rent”

Yousefzadeh essentially said that season announcement would serve as evidence of the college’s ongoing commitment to anti-racist and diverse performing. Or not. It turns out, the newly announced season includes only one writer of color. 

Then again, attendance for FAC theater productions fell a stunning 59 percent in 2022 compared to the last “normal” year of 2019. The first and only FAC season officially programmed by Yousefzadeh continues with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” through April 2, followed by a touring production of “Where We Belong” – a play that grapples with nations that have failed to reckon with their ongoing roles in colonialism (April 13-23).

In an interview preceding the announcement of the new slate, Production Manager and Interim Producing Artistic Director Christopher Sheley told the Denver Gazette: “I think we’ll soon look a lot more like our old self than we did before.” And therein lies the heart of the problem for struggling arts organizations in 2023. Going back to mostly safe, conservative (and white) programming will be received as great news for some – and dispiriting news for those advocating for more equal representation on and off-stage.

Arvada Center pitches a ‘Comet’

Meanwhile, the Arvada Center also announced its 2023-24 season:

• “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” Sept. 8-Oct. 8

• “The Laramie Project,” Sept. 29-Nov. 5

• Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” Nov. 24-Dec. 31

• “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” Feb. 16-March 31, 2024

• “Noises Off,” March 22-May 5, 2024

Artistic Director of Theatre Lynne Collins had previously confirmed that the Arvada Center would not be employing a full repertory company of actors to perform in simultaneous plays next spring for the first time since 2016 so it could mount a large-scale immersive musical in its smaller studio theater. That turns out to be the 2016 Broadway hit “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” based on Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” Not so much an immersive musical, but what made it unique on Broadway was its seating structure, with tables replacing the first few rows of seats and the rear orchestra bisected by a curving runway that the actors used for entrances and exits. Basically, the show plays out “among the audience.” That explains why you can’t do more than one show at a time on that specific set, but it also means the company has scaled back from offering six annual productions to five as a cost-cutting measure. 

Levitt names executive director

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Meghan McNamara Levitt Pavilion

Meghan McNamara






The nonprofit Levitt Pavilion Denver, which offers free, all-ages concerts as well as ticketed events at the base of Ruby Hill Park, has named Meghan McNamara as its new executive director. She most recently oversaw programming, marketing and partnerships for the Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater in Chicago.

“Levitt is uniquely positioned as a space to experience the arts and find connection,” said McNamara, who starts on April 3.  “I look forward to getting to know the Levitt community and Denver’s rich cultural scene.”

Levitt’s 6th free season begins May 6 with the legendary fusion band Fishbone. Some of us (me) are already nerding out that the Violent Femmes are coming on May 21 to mark their 40th year as a band by playing their entire self-titled debut album from cover to cover. (That one’s not free.) 

Andy Thomas, interim executive director and to many the recent public face of Levitt, will revert to his previous role as deputy director – ”and I am honestly quite happy about it,” he told The Denver Gazette. “I really like Meghan, and I am looking forward to working with her. Having someone at the top will allow me to return to some of the projects I care about.”

This week’s COVID watch

Positive COVID tests among the cast prompted Su Teatro to postpone its opening weekend of “El Espíritu Natural,” written and directed by Anthony J. Garcia and Daniel Valdez. The trio of playlets that take a family on a mystical adventure now opens Thursday (March 15) and runs through March 26. Info at suteatro.org.

This PETA video calls attention to its Denver-bound installation, ‘Without Consent.’





PETA protest coming to Denver

PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – plans to bring a provocative outdoor exhibit to Denver next week. “Without Consent” is an installation modeled after the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that explores the troubled history of experiments on animals. And it will specifically call on (and out) the University of Colorado Denver to rethink what organizers are calling its “exploitative, expensive, cruel and archaic concept of science.” Specifically, it claims experimenters at CU Denver have conducted inhumane studies on rats that involve heroin, starvation and cutting out their brains.

“Without Consent,” which features 24 panels with descriptions and photographs of nearly 200 animal experiments conducted from the 1920s through today, will be on display from noon to 6 p.m. March 21-24 on Grant Street between East 14th and Colfax avenues.

More, more, more …

The 37th City Park Jazz season will open June 4 and continue for 10 free Sunday evenings in the City Park Pavilion. First up: Sarah Mount and the Rushmores, followed by Stafford Hunter & Jazz Explorations (June 11), Dotsero (June 18), Ritmo Jazz Latino (June 25), Wellington Bullings (July 2), Chris Daniels and the Kings (July 9), the 4th Annual Brass Band Extravaganza featuring Guerrilla Fanfare and Bourbon Brass Band (July 16), Otis Taylor (July 23), The Burroughs (July 30) and La Pompe Jazz (Aug. 6). Info at CityParkJazz.org







Judy Blume Forever

‘Judy Blume Forever’ will open the 2023 Women+Film Festival






Denver Film has announced the lineup for the 2023 Women+Film Festival running April 13-16 at the Sie FilmCenter. The Opening Night screening will be “Judy Blume Forever,” a documentary celebrating the woman whose trailblazing books changed the way millions of readers understand themselves, their sexuality and what it means to grow up. The closer will be “The Eternal Memory,” a documentary that explores a Chilean couple’s 25-year romance through Alzheimer’s and caretaking. Info and passes at denverfim.com

The recent Town Hall Arts Center world-premiere parenting musical comedy “In the Trenches” has a big “backer’s audition” coming up in New York on March 24 – that’s a performance for potential producers in the hope that the show will be picked up for an off-Broadway run. Can’t announce the cast just yet but they are all Broadway veterans. This could be a very big deal for Longmont creators Graham and Kristina Fuller.

The University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Music will host a free concert on March 21 to honor the memory of Professor Chas Wetherbee, who passed away in January. It’s at Imig Music on the Boulder campus …







Pop Culture Classroom RBG comic

Pop Culture Classroom’s new Ruth Bader Ginsburg comic






And finally …

Denver’s Pop Culture Classroom has a new history comic about iconic Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would have turned 90 on March 15. Ally Shwed’s “Ruth Bader Ginsburg & the U.S. Supreme Court,” which includes a teaching guide for grades 9-12, suggests projects to help high schoolers learn about her legacy and the importance of the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s free and available for download at popcultureclassroom.org.



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