Critical View

Marley's ghost may haunt the Denver Center Theatre Company.

Marley decided to leave because of financial cutbacks: His annual budget has gone down by $1.6 million from a high of $8.8 million in 2001. "At 67 years of age, I don't have to go into this next phase, which, frankly, doesn't interest me," he says. "The kind of literature I like to do requires more people: Cyrano, Hamlet, plays with casts of over twenty. I like to be challenged by the episodic pieces, the major literature in the world. The thought of doing continual seasons filled with two- to six-character plays is unattractive to me."

Yet some of the most moving experiences provided by the Denver Center have come in the shape of such small plays as Lobby Hero and Behind the Broken Words, the latter an evening of poetry spoken on a minimally furnished stage by Anthony Zerbe and Roscoe Lee Browne. Marley acknowledges that many important plays now have small casts because playwrights realize that large-cast scripts will never be produced.

No one knows if the new director will maintain a permanent acting company or retain the current members. "Anyone coming in, anyone capable of doing this job, will be so because he or she has been working with directors, designers and actors who have created the body of work that has called that candidate to the board's attention," Marley says. "Any director is going to be stepping into a larger responsibility, I suspect, than they have had before, and they are going to want around them those who helped them get to this point."

A scene from the Denver Center's successful 
Three Sisters.
A scene from the Denver Center's successful Three Sisters.
Donovan Marley
Donovan Marley

Marley says he talked to his actors at the beginning of this season's rehearsal period, reminding them that he himself brought 66 actors, artists and artisans with him to Denver in 1984 and that it was very likely that something similar would happen next May: "I told the company that in my opinion, the directors and designers are the most vulnerable; the second most vulnerable are actors who have been seen in a series of leading roles. Actors in character parts are the least vulnerable. After that, department heads."

He hopes to help his successor through the uncertainty to come. "There's a tradition in American theater that when the artistic director departs, he strips the desk of everything, but leaves a single sheet of paper in the upper right-hand drawer with, ŒOkay, here are where the potential bombs waiting to explode are, and here are a couple of people that you can count on when the blood is on the floor.'" He laughs. "I intend to honor that."

As for the rest of us, we can only wait and see.

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