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Denver Center Theatre Company announces 2012-13 schedule

Denver Center Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson has chosen his 2012-13 lineup. It contains some safe choices, some doubtless designed to appeal to high schoolers, the requisite Christmas show (not A Christmas Carol this time, but White Christmas), two scripts selected from this year's New Play Summit -- and amid all this, a couple of things that sound seriously intriguing.

Israel Hicks died in 2010, but we imagine his ghost will be around for the first play of the season: August Wilson's Fences. The Denver Center is distinguished for having produced every one of Wilson's plays over the years, and Hicks was always at the helm, creating rich, multi-layered evenings that featured many of Denver's finest black actors.

The work of English playwright J.B. Priestley lost its luster in the 1950s, when the London stage was deluged with the raging of the so-called Angry Young Men, John Osborne chief among them. But Priestley is a fine playwright -- wistful, thoughtful and wise -- and it's time his work was revived. It will be fascinating to see how his When We Are Married resonates with a contemporary audience.

As for the two world premieres: Michael Mitnick's Ed, Downloaded is about a dying man whose happiest memories are saved by a futuristic outfit headed by his wife -- who is shocked when she sees what they actually are. The production will make full use of the Center's amazing video and tech capabilities. Grace, or the Art of Climbing was at a pretty embryonic stage at the time of the New Play Summit reading; presumably it will be tightened and polished for full performance. And it poses a couple of huge challenges: not only must the tech crew figure out how to simulate climbing, but the director will have to hire actors who can actually climb -- particularly the protagonist who, as the title implies, climbs high and also learns to fall.

We assume, though we don't yet know, that Thompson himself will direct Romeo and Juliet. His experience with Shakespeare is considerable, and he understands the language to the bone -- which means he makes both the dialogue and the story clear and absorbing for a modern audiences. He'll have to work hard, though, to match or surpass last summer's luminous Colorado Shakespeare Festival production.

Culture Clash wowed us last year with American Night:The Ballad of Juan Jose, a vital, crazy mix-up of history, politics, high jinks and bad puns, and we can't wait to see what they do with the famed and famously randy artist in A Weekend with Pablo Picasso.

To be honest, we know bupkus about Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities, except that playwright Baitz was an occasional writer for the West Wing, a producer on Brothers and Sisters, and has won some respectful recognition for his theater work.

Following is the full schedule from the Center:

Fences by August Wilson Sept 14-Oct 14 (Opens Sept 20) | Space Theatre

  Troy Maxson, a star baseball player whose career was blunted by the racism prevalent in pre-Jackie Robinson America, now supports his family as a sanitation worker. Feeling his world rapidly changing, Troy builds a fence to protect what is familiar and hold off what threatens. Both muscular and lyrical, this August Wilson blockbuster, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and two Tony Awards, shows what can happen when a strong man is robbed of his dreams .

  The Three Musketeers Adapted by Linda Alper, Douglas Langworthy, and Penny Metropulos From the book by Alexandre Dumas Sept 21-Oct 21 (Opens Sept 27) | Stage Theatre

  In this swashbuckling adventure, young D'Artagnan comes to Paris with one goal in mind: to join the King's Musketeers. Befriended by three legendary swordsmen, he is immediately put to the test, and along the way finds love, faces temptation and thwarts evil. Loaded with dazzling sword-play, intrigue and comedy, this adaptation of Dumas' novel considers the cost of one hero's journey.

Lois Lowry's The Giver Dramatized by Eric Coble Sept 28-Nov 18 (Opens Oct 4) | Ricketson Theatre

When young Jonas is chosen by the Elders to be Receiver of Memories, he begins to discover the disturbing truth about his utopian world. Lois Lowry's powerful Newbery Medal novel makes for a fantastic theatrical event.  

When We Are Married by J.B. Priestley Nov 16-Dec 16 (Opens Friday, Nov 23) | Stage Theatre

  What would you do if you discovered on your 25th wedding anniversary that you weren't legally married? Playwright J.B. Priestley cranks up the tension by multiplying the idea times three as six spouses -- all prominent citizens in a small English town -- struggle to figure out how to protect their reputations and resolve their newly unmarried status.  

Irving Berlin's White Christmas* Based upon the Paramount Pictures Film Written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin Book by David Ives and Paul Blake Nov 23-Dec 24 (Opens Wednesday, Nov 28) | Stage Theatre

  With a lyrical score by Irving Berlin, this stage adaptation of the beloved film musical with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye delivers gorgeous songs with a touch of nostalgia. Two World War II vets are determined to rescue their beloved commanding officer whose country inn is imperiled by lack of snow. With the help of their girlfriends (a pair of singing sisters) they hatch an ingenious plan to save Christmas.  

World Premiere Ed, Downloaded by Michael Mitnick Jan 11-Feb 17 (Opens Jan 17) | Ricketson Theatre

Equal parts live action and feature film, this intriguing comic drama tells the story of Ed, who is dying. Given a chance to be immortal, Ed selects the boutique procedure of having his brain downloaded. He's allowed ten memories to accompany him into eternity. But when his wife discovers what they are, she decides to intervene. A Denver Center Theatre Company commission.  

World Premiere Grace, or The Art of Climbing by Lauren Feldman Jan18-Feb 17 (Opens Jan 24) | Space Theatre

  A captivating tale of a reluctant young athlete for whom rock climbing is both metaphor and action. Emm struggles with doubt, depression and her own demons, as she trains mind, body and spirit for a world climbing competition  

Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare Jan 25-Feb 24 (Opens Jan 31) | Stage Theatre

When Romeo meets Juliet at a masked ball, a love sparks and grows, swept along by flights of poetry and ecstatic romance. But these young lovers can't withstand the buffeting of their feuding families for long. Exuberant and tragic, this timeless love story still packs a huge emotional wallop.  

A Weekend with Pablo Picasso by Herbert Siguenza March 22-April 28 (Opens March 28) | Ricketson Theatre

  Drawing on the writings of art colossus Pablo Picasso, playwright/performer Herbert Siguenza of LA's Culture Clash creates a spirited and entertaining celebration of the prolific artist's life, featuring a sparkling portrayal of the iconic artist and live, onstage painting!  

Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz March 29-April 28 (Opens April 4) | Space Theatre

In this explosive Broadway hit, a young writer returns to Palm Springs for a Christmas family gathering. The about-to-be-published manuscript she brings with her forces her film-industry parents and family to grapple with a painful issue they'd rather not discuss. As the day unfolds, secrets and lies unravel, revealing characters far more complex -- and more human -- than we had imagined.

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The DCTC 2012/13 season also will feature an 11th production, to be announced at a later date.  That show will run April 5 - May 26 in The Stage Theatre, with an April 11 opening night.

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