Join the First Take crew each Thursday at 8:35 AM as they talk about Colorado’s cultural scene with Arts District host Carrie Saldo. Below is the summary from September 17, 2015. 


‘Alice’ Leaves Fourth Wall in Shards

Moments into Lookinglass Alice its protagonists peer into a mirror. It shatters (the only spoiler you’ll read here) and so does the fourth wall. And so goes the audience, down the rabbit hole for 90 minutes of whimsy and wonderment.

Originated at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company director by David Catlin, drew inspiration from all three of Lewis Carroll’s novels for the production. Alice boogies with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, plays fetch with the Cheshire Cat, and, of course, enjoys a sporting game of croquet with the lofty Red Queen.

The show’s text and action is rich with silly humor. For instance, the hedgehogs, which serve as the queen’s croquet balls, quell the pain of their life’s work with alcohol. How else might one react to the Red Queen’s consistent demand for “shots?”


The humor is accompanied by plenty of literary references and symbolism. But just as the mind begins to chase introspection, stage action triggers laughter, or utter awe, and snaps you back into the present.


“This is a captivating production that allows audiences of all ages to join Alice as she literally
tumbles down the rabbit hole,” Kent Thompson Denver Center artistic director said in a statement.


The production, action packed and without an intermission, incorporates numerous circus elements including aerial work and balancing acts. But it forgoes the usual Big Top pomp that telegraphs a death-defying feat about to unfold. The result is surprise after surprise.


The performances’ five actors, save Alice, take on at least three roles each. Because of the physical demands of playing Alice, she is rarely off stage, two actors – Lauren Hirte and Lindsey Noel Whiting – alternate the role.

“This show is a little bit like Everest so the people who are willing to come back and do it again have to be a little nuts, in a good way,” said Noel Whiting, in a statement. “It’s very hard work and you don’t work that hard for something unless you really love it.”

The show, at Denver Center’s Stage theater until October 11, is worthy of that ardor.


45 Years of Thinking Big

How do you celebrate four-and-a-half decades of performance? If you are Cleo Parker Robinson you do it by premiering a lot of new work. Two different full-length evenings of dance and a musical to be precise.  


“We have never done anything small,” said Parker Robinson the company founder and choreographer. “And the role that it can play in bringing community together is even more significant now.”

She admitted coordinating the pieces of that picture, which has three new performances running in succession, kept her going non-stop. But Parker Robinson showed no indications of slowing.


“We are just a little bit as high as a kite,” she said. “But instead of being about reefer it’s about that natural Rocky Mountain high that we know so well and we have been bringing to audiences all these years.”


The company’s most recent offerings include Mystical Abyss, which ran earlier this month, and Bamboula, slated for two upcoming performances at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts.

The latter is a retrospective of the company’s work –  with Parker Robinson selecting her 1971 dance To My Father’s House; Serendipity, created by Eleo Pomare; and Jeffrey Paige’s 2013 work Star of the Show – and includes Bamboula, newly created for the company by Millicent Johnnie.


Parker Robinson said the work traces the bamboula, a traditional dance that’s part worship and part protest, in New Orleans to its roots in Africa. She said it is reminiscent of the “delicious” and “spirited” blend of food and music available in the Big Easy. (But in performance “the food” is movement, nourishing the artistic palate.)


Meanwhile, the musical Uncle Jed’s Barbershop will play at the company’s Park Avenue West theater. Based on the Margaree King Mitchell children’s book by the same title, and set in the 1920s it tells the storyan African American barbers’ life-long pursuit of his own business.  


Through the years, Parker Robinson has alternated between creator and commissioner, making her own work and bringing the vision of emerging and established choreographers to Denver.

That approach has yielded numerous new dances that have invited audiences to ponder cultural traditions, race, religion, politics and more.

The creative explorations of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance are unlikely to decrease.  have varied there has been one constant for the small non-profit.


“It is designed to show the larger picture of what is possible,” within the Denver community and beyond she said.


Tonight on Arts District


The work of painter and muralist Thomas Hart Benton depicted early and mid 20th century working class American life, much of it in the Midwest.

Benton, along with Grant Wood, and John Steuart Curry, pioneered a painting style known as Regionalism. It is the style that many identify with him. But an exhibit at Evergreen Fine Art showed a different aspect of Benton’s work, rarely displayed – his sketches.


Anna Skibska’s [SKEEB-ska] work is often installed in large darkened gallery spaces, which naturally draws the eye through a forest-like environment of intricately woven towering glass structures.

Born in Poland, she studied architecture, fine arts and painting but she describes her work with glass as storytelling. Producer Leslie Dodson brings viewers inside the exhibit titled Reveries
at the Loveland Museum.

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