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A shining light in the local performance scene, the 20-year-old Curious Theatre Company has become known for its ability to tactfully tackle taboo, challenging, or controversial topics. This past spring, for example, the theater became the second playhouse in the United States to host Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Wall, a thought-provoking play that tapped into President Donald Trump’s stance toward and treatment of illegal immigrants.
Months after that show concluded, the socially conscious theater now has a big reason to celebrate.
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For the past three years, the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust has annually donated $25,000 to Curious, says managing director Katie Maltais. But after the 2016–17 season wrapped up, the local theater company was set to renegotiate its deal with the foundation. Curious, which normally has an annual budget of about $1.3 million, received good news: Not only would the trust continue to donate $25,000 annually, it would also donate a total of $100,000 over the next three years. Maltais says the grant will help Curious partner with a wider pool of nationally recognized playwrights.
The season will kick off Labor Day weekend with Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate, which questions the legacy of race in both family and society. Jacobs-Jenkins is a Pulitzer Prize winner, MacArthur Grant recipient, and won an Obie Award in 2014 for Best New Play (An Octoroon).
Tony Kushner, whom Maltais refers to as the season’s “crown jewel,” will also have one of his works, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, shown at Curious. Kushner, an openly gay playwright, is perhaps most well-known for his play, Angels in America, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993.
Ultimately, says Maltais, this grant allows Curious to take risks and work with artists who would’ve otherwise been out of reach. The new season will tackle topics such as police brutality with the play, Detroit ’67. Mental health will highlighted in another show. The goal, she says, is to spark conversations in Denver about major issues that have proven difficult to discuss.
“It’s a really important time for our country,” Maltais says. “We want people to leave our theater thinking ‘How are we learning from history?‘”