The Next Act

Last spring, Jeffrey Nickelson — who founded Shadow Theater Company with a $500 donation from news anchor Reynalda Muse and kept it alive for more than a decade — unveiled the theater’s beautiful new home in Aurora.

But a few months later, citing fatigue, Nickelson announced his resignation. Anxious speculation followed as to whether Shadow would survive. Now Keith Hatten, a talented veteran of the Denver Center Theatre Company and winner of the 2004 Best of Denver award for Best Season for an Actor, has taken over the reins, both directing and acting in the season opener, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Before assuming the job, Hatten sought the advice of Donovan Marley, his director at the DCTC. Marley gave Hatten tips on organizational structure and what to expect. Most important, he told Hatten to hire a business manager so that he could concentrate on his overall artistic vision. And that’s just what Hatten is doing.

Shadow is the only black theater company in the region, and Hatten hopes it will eventually become a small Equity house, meaning it will be unionized, and one of the best companies in the country. As it did under Nickelson, Shadow will present a mix of dramas, musical offerings and plays that illuminate black history. “Colorado raised me and gave me a home at a time when a black actor had to be nomadic,” Hatten says. “It’s my turn to give Colorado a gem.”

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom opens today and runs through October 17 at 1468 Dayton Street in Aurora; for tickets and information, call 720-857-8000 or visit
Thursdays, Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6:30 p.m. Starts: Sept. 3. Continues through Oct. 17, 2009

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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