The Jan. 6 capitol insurrection is one of the darkest days in the history of the country — one that we’re still reeling from and trying to figure out to prevent from happening again.
When something that scarring happens, it can take art a while to catch up. But that’s not the case with Lakewood’s Benchmark Theatre, which is tackling the event head on with the world premiere of “Our American Cousin: a nation divided” — held on Thursday, Jan. 6.
“The state of our discourse is no longer point-counter point any more. Now it’s about diluting the truth with so many opinions and perspectives that the truth can no longer be gleaned,” said Marc Stith, who is co-directing the show with Neil Truglio. “One of the concepts I hope people come away with is how fragile the truth is right now.”
“Our American Cousin” runs at Benchmark, 1560 Teller St., through Saturday, Jan. 29. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Audience members should be prepared to demonstrate proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours old. They will also need to wear a mask.
A part of the theater’s new season, themed “Aftermath,” the show’s aim is to get to the truth by doing no narrative writing — all that is presented is direct, unedited quotes from a variety of participants. Six actors — Shannon Altner, Chris Kendall, Bruce Laks, Suzanne Nepi, Josiah Peters and Ryan Omar Stack — take on dozens of roles each as they perform the very words of the participants. Truglio said the production owes its style the living newspaper performances produced by the Federal Theatre Project in the 1930s.
“It’s a highly theatrical version of what happened and audiences will get to meet people they had no idea were involved,” he said. “The play is a moment in time and we think it needs the audience and the conversation.”
Both Stith and Truglio emphasized that the show is for everyone on the political spectrum and the hope is that by using only direct quotes from participants, it will cut to the truth and foster conversation. And Benchmark wants to be a place for those conversations, with several discussion options for audiences being considered.
“We don’t want people to view this as some kind of hatchet job. We’re just presenting what the people who were there said,” Stith said. “Audience members will walk in with their own confirmation bias, but we’re not viewing this through the lens of party — it is what it is.”
Not only does “Our American Cousin” grapple with pressing questions about the state of our democracy and how we move forward as a country, but it allows the theater to take part in current events conversations as they’re happening.
“The theater has gotten away from being very, very immediate, but we as artists need to be talking about and responding to these events as well,” Truglio said. “It’s theater for audiences excited to see something new, risky, immediate, a little dangerous and dark. Those who come take the risk will be rewarded for it.”
For tickets and information, visit benchmarktheatre.com/our-american-cousin-a-nation-divided.
Dance Theatre of Harlem stops at Newman Center
The Dance Theatre of Harlem, one of the top dance groups in the country, is bringing its company of performers to the Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver, 2344 East Iliff Ave., at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 14 and Saturday, Jan. 15 at the June Swaner Gates Concert Hall.
According to provided information, “the 18-member, multi-ethnic touring company performs a forward-thinking repertoire that includes treasured classics, neoclassical works… as well as innovative contemporary works that use the language of ballet to celebrate African American culture.”
Tickets are available by calling 303-871-7720 or visiting newmancenterpresents.com.
Patton Oswalt asks `Who’s Ready to Laugh?’
Author’s note: Due to COVID-19 concerns, Oswalt has postponed his performance.
If you’re a nerd, comedy fan or comedy nerd, you know who Patton Oswalt is. In addition to numerous stand-up tours and performances, he’s performed in a variety of films and television, ranging from “Parks and Recreation” to “Ratatouille.”
Oswalt is bringing his “Who’s Ready to Laugh?” tour to the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place in Denver, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8. For tickets, visit paramountdenver.com/event-calendar/.
Clarke’s Concert of the Week — Keys N Krates at the Temple
Canada’s Keys N Krates make music for people who dig hip-hop. The electronic trio — made up of drummer Adam Tune, keyboardist David Matisse and turntablist Jr. Flo (Greg Dawson) — tap into the loops and bass-driven beats that have been a key part of the rap genre since its creation.
The group just released their latest album, “Original Classic,” and Keys N Krates are bringing their tour to the Temple Nightclub, 1136 Broadway in Denver, at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8.
Get tickets at templedenver.com.
Clarke Reader’s column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.