Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

‘Granny’ makes a new home at DU

The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble has been performing Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum for 15 years. But putting the show together this year was almost like starting over.

After financial reasons forced the ensemble to move from its longtime venue at the Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC), Cleo took the show to DU’s Byron Theatre. That called for retrofitting the entire space — a Herculean task made possible with the assistance of a handful of University of Denver students.

In fact, it was a DU student who first proposed moving the show into the Newman Center. Samantha Staggs, a senior performance major, interned with the company and made the suggestion to Parker Robinson in fall 2005.

“I showed them the space because for what they needed to do, it’s perfect,” Staggs says. “Byron is one of the newest facilities. It has a lot more options and I could really see the production there.”

The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble has performed other shows in the Newman Center, but Granny is the first time an outside company has used the Byron Theatre.

Trey Grimes, Cleo’s technical director, enlisted the help of five DU student interns to take the show into the new venue. Byron’s flexible design allows for 42 stage and seating configurations. All of those possibilities, Grimes says, increased the difficulty of recreating the production.

While Grimes wanted audiences to see the show they knew and loved, they had to accommodate the venue’s smaller space — 10-foot diameter less than DPAC. Grimes describes the space as “bare naked” and says it had to be outfitted with flooring and lighting in only two days.

“They easily did over 100 hours in five days,” Grimes says, explaining that interns also assisted with the sound design, moved hundreds of costumes and props and rewrote 220 lighting cues — the cues alone taking three nights after rehearsals.

And after it was all done they had to do it again. This time for a Dec. 7 preview show for 700 area youth in Gates Concert Hall.

“Once again we were up until wee hours of the morning to get it ready,” Grimes says. “Cleo and I really appreciate their dedication and hard work.”

Mary Hart, Cleo’s operations director, says the move has worked well.

“Customers have expressed appreciation for not having to fight traffic and parking downtown,” Hart says, adding that the company plans to continue performing Granny at DU every year.

The show runs weekends through Dec. 23, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sundays at 2 p.m.Granny incorporates live music, story and dance from West Africa, Mexico, India, China, the Caribbean, Brazil and other locales from throughout the world. It takes about 100 people — 60 cast members, an 11-member band and a crew — to put on Granny.

Tickets are $35–$38 for the general public and $25 for students and seniors. Discounts are available for children, groups of 10 or more, and DU faculty and staff. For information and tickets, contact the Newman Center box office at 303-871-7720. Tickets also are available at, 303-357-2787 or at any Ticketmaster outlet.

The Newman Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2344 E. Iliff Ave. Paid parking is available in the Newman Center garage.

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