A superhero bird is coming to Denver-area stages, and he’s centering people of color

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Courtesy Colorado Chamber Players
Michaela Murray, right, and Ronald McQueen rehearse the play “Music of Flight: The Falcon.”

A superhero is flying onto stages around the Denver area.

Colorado Chamber Players, a professional mixed-chamber ensemble, is partnering with a Colorado playwright on a new Theater for Young Audiences project. The two-person play is called “Music of Flight: The Falcon.”

Michaela Murray plays the young girl in the play, Darlene, who is trying to figure out her identity and who she is. As she does it, she imagines her favorite superhero. 

“The Falcon is there to help guide her through those questions of identity and self,” Murray said. In the play, Darlene explores her identity and the magic of birds and flight.

Ronald McQueen says his character, The Falcon, sees himself as a good guy but has self-doubts. 

“He's already wrestling with like, 'OK, am I worthy enough to be Captain America, let alone the Falcon?'” McQueen said. “Darlene, like really helps him just like, dive into that and well really, we help each other because, you know, the Falcon’s popping up in Darlene's imagination and we're just like, ‘Yeah, we could do this.’”

Both actors say it’s important that Josh Hartwell, the Colorado Chamber Players, and director Betty Hart are presenting theater for young audiences that centers people of color in the story. They say that’s especially true for students who may be experiencing theater for the first time. 

Murray said she thinks it's a big deal for young audiences to see someone that could look like the two of them. 

Courtesy Betty Hart
Ronald McQueen as The Falcon in the play “Music of Flight: The Falcon.”

“When I was younger, I didn't see the representation of people like me. So I wanted to make space for people like me,” Murray said. “I'm actively always trying to be an example to younger folks that you are worthy of being in the room. You are worthy of all of the things that you want to dream and attain. Those dreams are not so far as you think they are.”

McQueen agreed that the representation is meaningful. 

“I like how in our play, the Falcon, he's not actively fighting anybody, because as fun as fight choreography is, and as much as we enjoy seeing it, I think it's very important to not just present a violent Black man,” McQueen said.  “Like it's important to show all of our different qualities because that's all that we are, we're all human beings, but if we only see a certain thing, it's easy to get a certain idea stuck in your head.”

McQueen said he believes art can save the world.

“We get to experience this story together, and everybody takes away their own bits. But it's something about performance in general, but also like live performance being in the room, like with the, with the magic happening.”

For Murray, the chance to play this character is doubly meaningful. Not only does she get to center voices of color, but she gets to support local arts as well. 

“Support the people who live here cause this art is just as important as the art that you see on your TV or the art in Broadway or California,” she said. “This art is just as important.”

Music of Flight: The Falcon features live music about birds by Rameau, Haydn, and Maria Newman, with a book by Josh Hartwell, and is for ages 8 and up. It premieres at the Studio Loft in Denver on May 4 and 5. May 6 it will play at the People’s Building in Aurora, and finally, on May 13 at the Parker Schoolhouse on Main.