In the Pocket: The Ballad of Bobby Trombone
In the Pocket: The Ballad of Bobby Trombone imagines life inside the historical Rossonian Hotel, located at the pinnacle of Five Points, Denver’s historic Black neighborhood.
A collaboration of the Emancipation Theater Company and Theatre Artibus now through February 19, 2023 at the Savoy Denver
Three employees tell the story of its rich jazz history and how it earned its nickname “The Harlem of the West” (a fictionalized account based on historic facts). In the Pocket is supported in part by a grant from Denver Arts and Venues.
A jazz waltz melts into heavy bass and a hip-hop beat as the theme to “In the Pocket: The Ballad of Bobby Trombone” begins.
The play is the latest work by Jeff Campbell’s Emancipation Theater, a story about Five Points’ heyday. The song projects past, present, and future within the same gaze, a theme that runs throughout Campbell’s script.
“It centers around the folks that work there at the Rossonian,” Campbell told us. “One of them has this pursuit to make it as a big star, that’s his whole thing. And along the way, he discovers the valuable gifts that he has, that go beyond fame and fortune.”
That aspirer is Simon, a bellhop who’s itching to leave town to find his big break. Campbell said his role represents a look toward the future. Bobby Trombone, played by Campbell, a musician – and “the best to ever do it” – represents the past and is stuck in Five Points’ golden years. Violet, their colleague, helps ground them in the present.
Hollowell, who plays Violet, said the story’s struggle centers around Simon’s desire to leave and the idea that you have what you need in community if you know how to see it. It also contains a premonition that the good days in Denver’s “Harlem of the west” will be in peril as the city changes.
“Violet’s character is trying to tell both the past and the future: If we don’t do something, we’re going to lose this community,” she said.
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