Last night saw an outpouring of support for Modern Muse, as longtime Denver Center Theatre Company favorite Jamie Horton returned to town and reprised several of his favorite roles—with the help of John Hutton, Kathy Brady and Randy Moore—at a benefit for the theater company at the Kenneth King Performing Arts Center on the Auraria campus.
Not only was the auditorium packed with hundreds of theater aficionadoes and Jamie fans—including DCPA founder Donald Seawell—but many of the area’s starriest stars were on hand to serve wine and cheese and entertain guests. Modern Muse founders Gabriella Cavallero and Stephen Lavezza have roots deep in the local community, and you couldn’t help feeling a glow of affection toward them suffusing the entire proceedings.
There was serious respect for the kind of work they do, too: Everyone knows this couple has put a lot on the line in the service of their art. According to a profile by Lisa Bornstein a couple of years ago, they even took out a second mortgage on their house.
Modern Muse mounts plays that matter, gutsy, interesting pieces that often take on current issues. Steve and Gabriella don’t plan their seasons by holding their fingers up to the wind to assess prevailing currents or following a calculated audience-building plan. And you never quite know what you’ll get at a Modern Muse production: a revival of Inherit the Wind (particularly timely as the anti-evolution battle rages in America’s schools), or the brilliantly quirky Thom Pain (based on nothing) that sealed their artistic reputation but kept audiences away in droves.
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We’ve all been missing the hell out of Jamie Horton since he left the Denver Center, so the benefit offered an opportunity to again soak up his altogether unique performing skills. I’m sure everyone had their favorite moments: Jamie gave us the full gamut of tragedy, comedy, Shakespeare and modern. My favorites tended to be comic: the repressed, bitter academic from Bernice/Butterfly who tries to parse the teleological meaning of failure; Dalton Trumbo’s hilarious disquisition on masturbation in a letter to his son (really, I can’t imagine this monologue being better done -- by anyone, ever), and Alan Bennett’s sermon from the 1950s revue Beyond the Fringe:
“Life, you know, is rather like opening a tin of sardines. We are all of us looking for the key. And, I wonder, how many of you here tonight have wasted years of your lives looking behind the kitchen dressers of this life for that key? I know I have. Others think they've found the key, don't they? They roll back the lid of the sardine tin of life, they reveal the sardines, the riches of life, therein, and they get them out, they enjoy them. But, you know, there's always a little bit in the corner you can't get out. I wonder – I wonder, is there a little bit in the corner of your life? I know there is in mine.”
Not all the roles Jamie took on last night were perfectly executed—he had to read the words; the tech had been hastily put in place over a couple of days—but every scene was a striking reminder of just what we lost when this marvelous actor left Denver for a teaching career.
But at least he gave Modern Muse something to remember him by: The performance last night raised about $10,000. -- Juliet Wittman