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On Wednesday, Curious Theatre Company announced the slate of plays it will produce during its silver anniversary season, which will run from September through June 2023. But the anticipated unveiling took a back seat to a more surprising announcement: Founders Chip Walton and Dee Covington will leave the company at the end of its 25th season. Longtime company member Jada Suzanne Dixon will become Curious’ artistic director.
“We pride ourselves as an organization on being feisty, on being progressive, on maintaining artistic excellence and elevating it in every way that we possibly can,” Dixon says. “I see myself as sort of the caretaker of the rich history and legacy that Dee and Chip have created. Part of that journey of carrying that forward will be: How do I deepen our roots into those core values and then explore ways in which to take it to the next level?”
Walton and Covington, who are married, co-founded Curious in 1997 after directing and appearing, respectively, in the regional premiere of Angels in America. The company quickly gained a reputation for having “the hot new plays,” according to a 2004 Rocky Mountain News article. During its 24 years, Curious has produced 21 world premieres, 82 regional premieres, and four Denver premieres. That includes introducing locals to the work of Tarell Alvin McCraney, who penned the story that would become the Academy Award–winning film Moonlight.
“Right now, issues about representation and storytelling and about equity and diversity and about exploring the contemporary world in which we live have all become paramount,” Walton says. “And I’m like, Right on. We’ve been doing that for 25 years.”
Walton and Covington, who serves as Curious’ education director and started the company’s esteemed Curious New Voices playwriting program, say they will support Dixon during the transitional, 25th season. Covington will direct the production of Franklinland and star in the season’s final play, On the Exhale, which Walton will direct.
Dixon grew up in the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver before graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and getting a master’s of fine arts at the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University. She joined Curious a decade ago and has won multiple local awards for both her direction and acting. Dixon is currently starring in Curious’ production of Fireflies.
“She’s someone that’s going to be taking over an organization that she knows very, very well,” Walton says. “But she’s also going to put her own imprint and vision on it. … Obviously, Dee and I think Curious is our baby, but we wanted to make sure that whenever we left, we left it in the hands of someone who appreciated and understood the culture, the core values, the mission, and was ready to continue that while putting their own stamp on it.”
In addition to furthering Curious’ creative mission, Dixon will be tasked with navigating a post-pandemic economic environment that hasn’t been kind to live theater. Although financially stable, Curious’ ticket sales are down about 30 percent from pre-pandemic levels.
“There’s a struggle to figure out, yes, how do we maintain staff salaries, keep doors open, get bodies into the theater, and keep ticket sales going,” Dixon says. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity for Curious to really explore audience development as an opportunity. … There’s an opportunity there to help people of different backgrounds, different cultures, to get to the theater, and ways and for us to be creative about how we start cultivating that and making sure that they feel invited and that when they’re there they feel welcome, seen, and heard. That’s not an easy task.”
Shows to See During Curious Theatre Company’s 25th Season
The company’s 2022-’23 slate will feature five plays based around one theme: What does it mean to be an American?
Heroes of the Fourth Turning
Written by: Will Arbery
Dates: September 10–October 15
It’s nearing midnight in Wyoming, where four young conservatives have gathered at a backyard after-party. They’ve returned from their disparate lives to toast their mentor at a tiny Catholic university. As the former classmates grapple with ideology and politics, we get a glimpse into the nuances of conservatism in Trump’s America. Opening a window to a world rarely seen onstage, Will Arbery’s haunting play offers grace and disarming clarity, speaking to the heart of a country at war with itself.
Written by: Lloyd Suh
Dates: November 5–December 10
This modern, comic take on the American Revolution puts the spotlight on the relationship between the brilliant and domineering Ben Franklin and his son William. As Ben plants the seeds of a new republic, King George III appoints William as Royal Governor of New Jersey— a change in affairs that creates a revolutionary family rift.
Written by: Benjamin Benne
Dates: January 14–February 18, 2023
“Who does the American dream belong to?” Alma and her daughter, Angel, made 16 wishes long ago: good health, love, carne asada every day, perfect SAT scores, and a spot at UC Davis, to name a few. But now that Angel is 17, she’s got a different vision for her future than her immigrant single mom. This poetic, funny, and timely piece was developed at the Denver Center Theatre Company’s New Play Summit in 2020.
Written by: Chisa Hutchinson
Dates: March 11–April 15, 2023
Jeff, a new father desperate for community, casually follows his buddy’s advice and tries to join a white supremacist group…but the results of his ancestry test prove surprising. Amerikin follows Jeff as serious consequences come knocking, and the line between “us” and “them” gets incredibly blurry. Gripping from the very first scenes, this play has twists and turns that travel down difficult roads until the bitter end.
On the Exhale
Written by: Martin Zimmerman
Dates: May 6–June 10, 2023
When a senseless act of violence changes her life forever, a liberal college professor finds herself inexplicably drawn to the very weapon used to perpetrate the crime—and to the irresistible feeling of power that comes from holding life and death in her hands. Peering down the barrel of a uniquely American crisis, she begins to suspect that when it comes to gun violence, we’re all part of the problem.