Bob Garner, RIP

Today Randy Weeks is president of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and executive director of Denver Center Attractions, but when he first met impresario Robert Garner in 1978, he was an undergraduate three courses shy of his marketing degree and looking for a summer box-office job.

Garner, who began presenting touring shows in Denver in 1961 and created Denver Center Attractions in 1979 at the behest of DCPA founder Donald R. Seawell, died July 19. The intimate Garner Galleria Theatre is named for him.

"I have lost a dear, dear friend and mentor," Weeks says. "He set me on a path that I would never have considered and I'm now completely grateful to have been exposed to theater and be able to make a living in it. He was a man of great integrity. Commercial theater has lost a great man."

When Weeks graduated, Garner offered to teach him the theater business. "And -- as I share with younger kids sometimes -- when an unexpected door opens, don't be afraid to go through it," he says.

If Weeks was intrigued by the offer, he became completely hooked on live performance when Garner acquired the first national tour of A Chorus Line soon after Weeks began working for him: "He told me that he refused to leave the general manager's office in New York until he had a signed contract. I had not had a great deal of exposure to theater. I would say, I'm going to stand in the back and watch for a few minutes. I went eleven times and stood through the entire show."

It is largely because of Garner -- and Weeks, his hand-picked successor -- that Denver has been an epicenter for Broadway touring shows for so many years. "The thing that was so joyous about Bob was that he took such pleasure in theater," says Weeks. "He especially loved the stars back in those days when they actually toured: Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis. He loved his stars and he was a star."

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman