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Denver festival boasts world premieres

DENVER — Citing the need to support writers over the long term, Denver Center Theater Company artistic director Kent Thompson has commissioned 13 plays in his 2½ -year tenure. Three of those commissions will receive their world preems at DCTC’s third annual Colorado New Play Summit, running Feb. 14-16.

Theresa Rebeck’s “Our House” looks at the implications of TV news focusing on entertainment rather than content; Octavio Solis’ “Lydia” explores family and cultural identity in a Mexican clan coming to grips with personal tragedy; and Eric Schmiedl’s adaptation of Kent Haruf’s novel “Plainsong” reflects on love and loss in a remote high plains ranching community.

Thompson attributes this quick ramp-up for the new festival to the support his company receives from its umbrella organization, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which oversees nine venues under one roof, including outlets for Broadway, opera, ballet, symphony and cabaret-style productions.

In addition to the expanded slate of new productions, the fest has upped its new play readings to four, all but one commissioned by the company.

Set in a psychiatric hospital, Lee Blessing’s “Perilous Night” deals with race and power in America; Denver native Steven Dietz’s “Shooting Star” is a contemporary relationship play about ex-lovers unexpectedly reunited after 20 years; Michele Lowe’s “Inana” looks at the war in Iraq through the eyes of a Baghdad museum curator; and Cusi Cram’s “Dusty and the Big Bad World” dramatizes the pseudo-religious political uproar generated when a popular PBS children’s show contest winner turns out to have “two daddies.”

Thompson anticipates that the ongoing growth of the Colorado New Play Summit could yield four full productions at future editions, as well as a longer schedule for the three-day event.

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