Theater company that coalesced last year stages play in Denver

Two friends formed Benchmark, which has nonprofit status in works

Posted 4/5/17

A couple of years ago, skilled actors — and good friends — Haley Johnson and Rachel Bouchard “wanted to do a project together,” they said as we sat down before rehearsal time to chat. What? They thought of producing, writing a play together …

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Theater company that coalesced last year stages play in Denver

Two friends formed Benchmark, which has nonprofit status in works

Posted

A couple of years ago, skilled actors — and good friends — Haley Johnson and Rachel Bouchard “wanted to do a project together,” they said as we sat down before rehearsal time to chat. What? They thought of producing, writing a play together and developing a company, which won out. It is named Benchmark Theatre, and its play “The Nether” is now running at Denver’s Buntport Theater. (Benchmark is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a way to judge the quality or level against other similar things.” Also a surveyor’s mark, cut into a wall, a pillar, a building.)

The pair spent a year planning before announcing last July, with an Aug. 1 open house at Redline Gallery, that Benchmark Theatre Company was joining the Denver area’s active theatre community. The company has a youth partner at Redline.

In response to the Orlando nightclub shooting, the new company became involved in an eight-company effort at Vintage theatre that raised over $2,000 for the Human Rights Campaign.

Groundwork first: “I spent more time with corporate governance than artistic (considerations),” said Bouchard, who is director of the company’s first production, “The Nether,” which opened March 31 at Buntport Theater. Johnson plays a detective in the cast.

They are happy to have a science fiction play as their first production. “There are not many of them out there …,” they agreed, hoping it will “tap new audiences.”

Nonprofit legal status is in the works, Johnson said, and the people they invited to be company members all said yes and all play a part. They are - in addition to Bouchard and Johnson — Susannah McLeod, Mark Stith, Lauren Bahlman, Jeffrey Neuman and Kate Folkins. The mission is partnering with businesses as well as other theater companies, to help build each other up. (Buntport Theater is a partner.)

Next project will be a new science fiction play festival, “Fever Dream,” in June, with all new works and lots of intellectual discussion, also at Buntport. They hope to attract people who participate in events such as Comic Con, Johnson said.

They are reading through 300 submissions for the festival, which will run over a weekend.

It’s important to start having discussions now about what they call “augmented reality,” such as the world in “The Nether.” It adds to the real world, as in Pokemon go. How do we feel about technology?

The play is for mature audiences, the pair cautions about the recent work by Jennifer Haley. It presents a “virtual wonderland that provides total sensory immersion; just log in and indulge your every desire. But a young detective discovers a disturbing brand of entertainment and triggers an investigation into the darkest corners of the imagination.” A serpentine crime drama as well as a haunting sci-fi thriller …

If you go


“The Nether” plays through April 23 at Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., Denver. Performances: 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and 6 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $30/$20, benchmarktheatre.com. Inquiries: info@benchmarktheatre.com.

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