New DCPA Musical Remembers Embarrassing Eastern Fire, Nods At Our New Climate Reality


Kahkoska worked with History Colorado’s Museum of Memory to interview survivors of the East Troublesome fire with playwright Lynde Rosario. She then mixed the experiences of 30 people to create a cast of new characters to represent a part of Grand County. She used folk music from local artists to highlight the show’s roots in Colorado. The new production will even be performed outdoors as a nod to the state’s love for outdoor music. The company kept the decor minimal so they could take the show on the Denver road, including Dillion in Summit County and Winter Park in Grand County.

Music is inspired by the experiences of wildfire survivors

Kahkoska said talking to survivors has helped bring their stories to life on stage.

“We spoke with a youngster who told us that when she evacuated, she forgot her shoes,” she said. “You know, she’s running around, she has all her animals and her backpack and for me, it’s true. This is how it goes.

“Wild Fire” is also the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ first new production since the pandemic tore the theater program apart last spring. The group of actors and musicians have only been practicing together for a few weeks, but already their rehearsals look like a reunion. Through clear plastic masks, their smiles shine as they tune instruments and warm up for the show’s opening number.

In a large cavernous DCPA rehearsal room, actor Rob Morrison said the return to rehearsal was a little different from normal after more than a year of pandemic hiatus. “It was strange coming back. It’s a great feeling, but it’s definitely… there are cobwebs, ”he said.

Other actors, like Morrison’s co-star Kendra Jo Brook, found this comeback surprisingly moving.

“This rehearsal process was kind of my first re-entry into life, and I think maybe these people coming to the show could be one of their first re-entries,” she said. “I think these returns are deeper than we expected because we are so resilient. I think back to school is painful and moving, but it’s also very beautiful because it’s so unexpected.

Monica Castillo / CPR News
The cast of Wild Fire sit during the rehearsal for the new Denver Center for the Performing Arts show.

For actor and drummer Harold Summey, coming back to the stage was not only a fun experience, it was also a vital experience.

“It’s sad that something like a pandemic has to remind us and remind everyone that we really need these things,” he said. “It’s not just an add-on, something to do on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon or something like that. We need to see the experiences of others, so that we can better live our life. “

As exciting as it has been for these actors to work on a new series, actor Marco Robinson said they are also focusing on the climate crisis that started the story.

“It’s even more relevant right now because I hear that I-70 has just been closed due to the mudslide, which is the result of the fires that happened last year,” did he declare. “We are still feeling the aftermath.”

Playwright Kahkoska said she hopes the show will help humanize the people behind the wildfire headlines and show how personal these disasters are to our neighbors.

“I think we’re at a time with climate change and the wildfires in Colorado where we need to find new ways to start these conversations and start great imaginative and emotional conversations because communicating in terms of acres and statistics, is not I’m not going to do it, “Kahkoska said. “Climate change seems big or global, but it’s actually local and incredibly personal. We feel it in our hearts.


Corina C. Butler

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