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Muse You Can Use

"I'm the muse of dance, and I'm constantly dancing and fluttering about," says Pamela Osborne. She's also an actor in Awakening Galatia, a new play by the Colorado Dramatists that debuts this weekend at the Acoma City Center Theatre in conjunction with hundreds of other events commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Denver Scientific & Cultural Facilities District. "I get very excited about my work," Osborne says. "It makes me crazy sometimes."
The play is set "in the age of classical heroes," and it incorporates many traditional Greek-theater elements. Pop culture sneaks in, too, such as when the muses in the seven-member chorus sing a few ditties to the tune of the Who's Tommy and the theme from Gilligan's Island.

The plot involves a man named Pygmalion who can't seem to find the right woman. He creates a statue of one instead and names her Galatia. When he begs the Goddess of Love, Venus, to give him a woman just like Galatia, Venus does what any self-respecting goddess would do: She teases him by granting only part of his wish. The script is full of ancient-sounding poetry; when Pygmalion makes his request, the chorus laughs: "Pygmalion, the woman hater, what a comic fate! He sculpted his Galatia, and he fawns on every trait!"

Colorado Dramatists is a group of about one hundred actors, directors and their supporters who produce original theater by local playwrights. A group of Denver playwrights started the Dramatists in 1981 to help local writers showcase and develop their work. The group is working on an $845 dribble this year from the SCFD and a few other small grants. That pays for a monthly newsletter, performance-hall rentals and an occasional cup of coffee for the actors, who get $10 each for a performance.

Play topics range from edgy social commentary to light comedy. The group's vice president, Dianne Jones-Ake, says she's writing a play about a young man who gets in trouble with the law and finds himself sentenced to community service at a camp for children with cancer. "It was a good connection to see where two people who are oppressed in different ways help each other out," Jones-Ake says.

One of the best parts of putting on a show, Osborne says, is after it's over, when the play's staff interacts with the audience. Those who've just seen the play want to meet the playwright, have a look at the script, talk with the actors and, often, learn how to get involved.

Some Colorado Dramatists members are established in local and regional theaters, but that doesn't mean inexperienced playwrights can't join. In fact, Osborne and Jones-Ake say they plan on seeking out playwrights-to-be at local high schools this spring. The welcoming attitude creates an unusual opportunity for budding playwrights to try out their work. The Dramatists evaluate original plays and even stage readings in front of an audience. After the reading, the playwright talks with the audience to wash out plot inconsistencies and other problems. "It's a good way for the playwrights to get a feel for what it's actually like on stage--if the dialogue seems natural, if the characters seem believable, and if the plot is feasible," Jones-Ake says.

That kind of approach makes the arts particularly accessible to the masses--and it's an excellent example of why the SCFD exists. "If there's raw talent out there, and if people have that passion and they want to learn, then why would we keep them out?" says Jones-Ake. "They could be the next playwright of the region."

--Perry Swanson

Awakening Galatia, Colorado Dramatists, 5 p.m. November 7, Acoma City Center Theatre, 1080 Acoma Street, free, 303-595-0688.


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