Denver's Northside is bigger than anyone thought.
Bobby LeFebre's play of that name was just extended for a third time, with three performances set for August 23-25 at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center. "I knew it was going to be successful; I knew it was going to be well-attended," LeFebre says of Northside, the play he started writing in 2015. "I didn't quite anticipate this much."
Tony Garcia, Su Teatro executive artistic director, says he, too, expected the play to be successful, but didn't anticipate the very expansive definition of what people consider the Northside. People came from 26th and Sheridan, 43rd and Lowell, he recalls, "a huge area, and people had those histories there."
History played a big part in the play's success, Garcia adds: "Although we didn't talk about it — we talked about it in terms of 'development' — the subtext was gentrification. Federico Peña said to 'Imagine a great city.' Now it's 'Bulldoze it.' A great city remembers its history, and doesn't tear it down. The audience got it better than we did. They connected with it way beyond what we did."
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And now they have three more chances to connect: at performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, August 23; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 24; and 2 p.m. Sunday, August 25. The shows are again directed by Hugo Carbajal, and the cast remains the same with the exception of Samantha Garcia replacing Iliana Barron; tickets are on sale while they last at suteatro.org.
Not only has this play been a big hit, but both Garcia and LeFebre have had big years. Soon after Chicano Power 1969! The Birth of a Movement, Su Teatro's two-play production focusing on groundbreaking activism fifty years ago, ended its run, Garcia was honored with the Community Services in the Arts Award from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, which cited his work as a playwright, musician, educator, mentor, social activist and non-profit leader. That was soon followed by the 2019 Governor's Creative Leadership Award, in the Arts and Community Action category, from Colorado Creative Industries.
LeFebre, too, was just honored by the state. When he's not writing plays, he's a social worker, actor, activist and spoken-word artist, and last month he was named Colorado Poet Laureate at a ceremony at the State Capitol. "It's been crazy," he says. "In the first week, I got forty requests for things to do." Among them was an offer to come talk about poetry and politics in Durango, a request to write a commission for nurse practitioners coming to Denver for a national convention, and the possibility of having his poetry studied for a semester in a Montbello classroom.
But first, you can study his words yourself at one of the last performances of Northside...for now.