Arts & entertainment

Marathoning theater at the Arvada Center

Three repertory shows connect in themes, characters and diversity

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A lot of life is spent waiting — waiting for people to arrive or depart, for things to happen, or for answers to be made clear.

This spring at the Arvada Center, the three repertory shows all examine characters waiting — for a bus to make it through a snowstorm in Kansas, for a deadly husband to arrive, and for meaning.

“There’s this great theme we explore in all our plays this spring,” said Geoffrey Kent, an actor and director in the spring shows. “Not only waiting for something to happen, but what people do when they’re waiting.”

“Bus Stop” runs at the Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., through April 15. “The Drowning Girls” also runs through May 21, followed by Samuel Becket’s classic, “Waiting for Godot,” which runs April 21 through May 20. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 1 p.m. on Wednesday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Written by William Inge, “Bus Stop” tells the story of eight weary travelers forced to spend a night in Grace’s Diner in Kansas, because of a blizzard that has closed down the road.

In “The Drowning Girls,” written by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson and Daniela Vlaskalic, based on true events, three women take back their voices and stories after being killed by the same twisted man.

“There are lots of plays where men play a lot of characters, but you don’t see as many with women,” said director Lynne Collins. “These women didn’t have voices at the time of these murders, so we’re interested in showing how and why they became victims.”

And in Becket’s “Waiting for Godot,” two men are trapped in a kind of absurdist limbo as they wait for the unseen Godot to arrive.

“People may think they know this play, but many don’t know the full work,” said Sam Gregory, who is in “Bus Stop” and “Waiting for Godot.” “It’s an absurdist piece, so there’s a lot that’s not said, and some aspects that are really heavy, and others that just leave you laughing.”

The 2016-2017 season is the first time the Center has taken a repertory approach to its plays, which means hiring an ensemble company of actors, directors and designers who will put on all of the season’s productions. This leads to a lot of overlap — many of the actors are in two of the plays. All three shows run on the same stage, and there is even some performance overlap between “Bus Stop” and “The Drowning Girls,” and “The Drowning Girls” and “Waiting for Godot.”

While this approach does provide challengers for directors, actors and the technical crews, it also offers an opportunity for diversity.

“I enjoy working on two shows, because if I get frustrated with one project, I’m able to step into the other to change things up,” said Josh Robinson, who acts in both “Bus Stop and “Waiting for Godot.” “There are times when I don’t know what we’re doing in ‘Godot,’ and that makes stepping back into ‘Bus Stop’ like putting on some really comfortable clothes.”

All three shows are small casts — “Bus Stop” has eight, “The Drowning Girls” three and “Waiting for Godot” has five. These intimate stories are the perfect fit for repertory shows, because they rely so heavily on relationships the actors have built working together.

“You’re taking the stage with people you trust, who can challenge you and keep you on your toes,” said Kate Gleason, an actress in “Bus Stop” and “The Drowning Girls.” “They’re all diverse works, and it helps to work with people you trust.”

For the actors and creatives involved, the repertory approach is a great benefit to the audiences who see all three shows, because they get to develop a kind of familiar affection for the actors, and see their craft in different rolls.

“We all have favorite film directors or actors, and at home you can do marathons to see how multifaceted they are,” said Emily Van Fleet, who acts in “Bus Stop” and “The Drowning Girls.” “It’s so cool to provide the same opportunity to people now, one you don’t often see in theaters.”

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