By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Cliff, Kiss, Cigarette, explains Dylan Ward, "is a story about danger, risk and coming of age in a fucked-up world." At seventeen, playwright Ward has barely come of age himself, and he took plenty of risks staging his ambitious work at the LIDA Project experimental-theater space earlier this month, including facing down that age-old danger: a disapproving mom.
Ward, a student at the Denver School of the Arts, cast four classmates to play Adrien, John, Alice and Laura, teenagers in a British drug-rehab center that's perched on the edge of a cliff (symbolism, you know). During the course of the play, the characters chain-smoke cigarettes (all herbal, the program notes), contemplate suicide, make out on stage in every conceivable gender combination, and talk about sex, baby -- in very graphic terms.
"Opening night was mostly our friends from school, who had no problem with the material," Ward says. "The second night, we had a smaller audience, and most of our parents came, and frankly, one of them had some problems with what she saw."
That would be putting it mildly. When Adrien, played by Mitch Colley, told John, "You're just mad because I won't fuck you," John, played by Daniel Regan Thorne, sarcastically replied, "Yeah, I want your big, fat cock riding in my ass!" -- inspiring one actor's mother to hide her face in her hands. A few minutes later, she uttered a soft but pained groan when her son embraced and kissed his fellow rehab inmate.
"Yeah, she hated it," Ward says. "She's a little on the conservative side, and my actor had been a little reluctant to show her the script beforehand, so I don't think she had any idea what she was getting into."
After the cast members took their final bow, the offended mother gestured to her son that she wanted to talk to him outside -- immediately. The actors and director were scheduled for a talk-back with the audience, and they began the discussion with an empty folding chair in their midst. Meanwhile, mother and son had a heart-to-heart about fat cocks, asses and whatnot, mercifully held out of earshot. A few minutes later, the young actor joined the rest of the cast, looking sheepish.
But his mom has since come around. "She wants to take us all out to dinner now," Ward says. "We're cool."
Ward developed the original script this past summer at "Curious New Voices," Curious Theatre's workshop for aspiring playwrights. Although everyone involved with the recent performances attends the Denver School of the Arts, Ward is very careful to note that the production was not an official school play -- perhaps remembering the unofficial drama that ensued after some senior girls performed The Vagina Monologues at the Mercury Cafe earlier in the year.
"It's harsh, it's savage, it's whatever, but I think eventually all of our parents get the point that it's not rude just to be rude, or offensive just to be offensive," Ward says of his play. "It's got a theme that's important."
Here's how Ward explained that theme during the talk-back: "It's about the dark side of seizing the day, and the questions the soul faces when it leaves a place that's comfortable. That's a pretentious schoolboy answer, but it's the only one I have."
Smack down: Two weeks ago, the unidentified crusaders at crackstreet.com sent out a scathing e-mail announcing phase two of their anti-marketing campaign. While public support for their site -- which featured crime-discussion forums, along with photos of open-air dealing, crack hos and other Capitol Hill mainstays -- had been high, they said, they were "disappointed in the lack of commitment and apathy displayed by the city." So the shock-value troops were now threatening to send travel magazines a press release titled "New Website Warns Denver Travelers About Tourist Attractions," as well as one to tech publications with the heading "Vigilantes Go Online to Fight Drug Dealing In Denver."
This was definitely not the kind of publicity Denver officials were looking for just days away from the grand opening of a new, 2.2 million-square-foot Colorado Convention Center, set to come on line December 6. No, they'd rather have big photo ops like Monday's media event with Mayor John Hickenlooper and the Rockettes, not the mayor ignoring rock-candyland.
But on November 22, ten days after delivering that threat, crackstreet.com suddenly posted a notice saying the group is going to play nice. "We have decided to now begin the transformation of the site to reflect a more positive impression of the area and the great work of individuals to improve the current crime situation," reads the manifesto. "We are still not entirely satisfied with the city's response and the lack of a long-term commitment to eliminate the problem, but some progress has been made. We feel that for now our point has been made painfully clear and the city and the public is well aware of the impact of this drug dealing on the community. Now it is time for change."
One of the first changes: removing all the photos of crack dealing -- and, in the process, removing Off Limits' main reason to visit the site. (We loved seeing who was stupid enough to get caught on film.) Now all that's left is earnest, let's-take-back-our-community rhetoric, along with the occasional "revelation" that a resident has discovered crack for sale around the shuttered space at 13th Avenue and Pearl Street that was a 7-Eleven until earlier this month.