Five Questions: Chip Walton of Curious Theatre

PHOTO: Chip Walton
Chip Walton is the producing artistic director at the Curious Theatre Company.

Colorado audiences will finally see the critically acclaimed trilogy “The Brother/Sister Plays” by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

The racially-charged trilogy is set in Bayou, Louisiana and incorporates elements of West African mythology.

McCraney has had his share of supporters and detractors.

Some critics call the young playwright a genius -- "the next August Wilson" -- while others find "The Brother/Sister Plays" to be self-indulgent. Colorado theatregoers will get a chance to to decide for themselves over the next two seasons.

Curious Theatre Company is only the fifth professional theatre in the nation to tackle the task of producing all three plays. The trilogy will be split over two seasons: “In the Red and Brown Water” and “The Brothers Size” will run in 2014/2015. Audiences will have to wait until the 2015/2016 season for part three, entitled “Or the Secret of Sweet.”

All three productions will feature Curious company members Laurence Curry, Cajardo Lindsey and Damion Hoover.

Curious Theatre also has two productions opening in March 2014. “Good People” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and “Twisted Fate,” a collection of ten-minute plays thematically linked to the mainstage production of “Good People.”

CPR caught up with Chip Walton, the Producing Artistic Director for the Curious Theatre Company, to get the inside scoop on the upcoming programming.

CPR: March is a busy month for Curious with two productions opening. “Good People” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire opens on March 8. Why should audiences come out for “Good People”?

Chip Walton: We have quite a long history of producing Lindsay-Abaire’s work here at Curious, and so we’ve become very familiar and hopefully fairly accomplished at bringing his plays to life on our stage. "Good People" is a play that explores the role of class in America today, and there just aren’t many plays that tackle this important subject. It does so with an amazing combination of courage, humanity and comedy.

CPR: You also have a limited run of “Twisted Fate” in March, a collection of ten-minute plays. Why did you decide to produce a series of plays thematically linked to the mainstage production “Good People?”

Chip Walton: Every season, we choose one of our productions for our young playwrights to write these “companion plays,” and this year it is "Good People." It gives our emerging playwrights an opportunity for involvement in our mainstage season, to immerse themselves in a great play written by a great American playwright, and to write a short play that will be produced with professional artists from our local Denver community. To serve as inspiration for these young writers, they are all given the same set of five to seven “ingredients” for these plays, pulled directly from the text of "Good People" which both helps to connect their plays to the work of Lindsay-Abaire, as well as to give them some framework for their own creativity.

CPR: You are producing the critically acclaimed trilogy “The Brother/Sister Plays” by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The trilogy first premiered in New York City in 2009. Why have Colorado audiences had to wait so long for this trilogy?

Chip Walton: I suppose that on some level, we’re responsible both for finally bringing these plays to Denver audiences, as well as for making them wait so long! After all, we are only the fifth professional theatre in America to produce the entire trilogy of plays. That makes Denver only the fifth community to have the experience of seeing them all together, produced at a single theatre. We produced one of the plays in this trilogy, "The Brothers Size," in 2013, and it was both a critical and commercial hit. But tackling the entire trilogy is an immense undertaking and commitment, one which involves 22 actor roles, extraordinary production challenges and (at least in our case) a commitment from a director and a group of actors and designers to be involved in all three plays over two seasons and one full calendar year. So, perhaps part of the reason that it has taken this long for a full Colorado production is that it takes a tremendous amount of resources for any theatre to undertake a project of this scope successfully. But we were certainly emboldened by our success with "The Brothers Size" to make the commitment to the entire trilogy. And moving forward, I believe that Curious will become known more and more for tackling projects of this scope, sweep and size. At least, that is our goal.

CPR: Aside from “The Brother/Sister Plays” What are you most excited about in Curious Theatre’s 17th season?

Chip Walton: I’m really excited to welcome back Broadway veteran and Denver native Martin Moran, who will be performing his new show "All the Rage," along with select weekly performances of "The Tricky Part," which had an acclaimed 2004 production here at Curious. "The Tricky Part" is a coming-of-age story told through the eyes of one boy who was forced to confront religion, sexuality and human trespass. During the run of that show here at Curious, he was asked this question: Where was the anger over his boyhood trauma? "All the Rage" is a globetrotting quest for the answer, as he charts his own course through rage and compassion. Martin is such a compelling performer and storyteller, and his writing has such a depth of heart. We’re thrilled to be able to share it with Denver audiences as only the third theatre in the country to produce it.

CPR: In the 2014 / 2015 season, Curious is producing “Lucky Me” by Robert Caisley as part of the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere program. What exactly is a rolling world premiere? What are the advantages of this model?

Chip Walton: The National New Play Network (NNPN) is an alliance of professional theatres that champion the development, production and continued life of new American plays, and Curious is Colorado’s only member theatre. The NNPN created the concept of a “rolling world premiere” to develop an alternative-producing model, changing the way theaters and audiences understand the term "world premiere." The Continued Life of New Plays Fund - the NNPN’s flagship program - supports three or more theaters that choose to mount the same new play within a 12-month period. The result is a “Rolling World Premiere” through which the playwright develops a new work with at least three different creative teams, for three different communities of patrons. This enures that the resulting play is of the highest possible quality. And with a minimum of three productions in a single year, the play attains the momentum it needs to join the repertoire of frequently produced new American works. Finally, it fosters a unique and exemplary level of collaboration between both artists and organizations that benefits playwrights, productions and audiences across the country.

“Good People” runs March 8 to April 19 at Curious Theatre with previews on March 6-7. “Twisted Fate” has a limited run March 16, 17 and 24. For more information go to