Theater Giant Passes
Su Teatro Mourns the Passing of Denver Civic Theatre Creator Henry Lowenstein
Henry Lowenstein cast a large cultural shadow here in Denver. He was called to town by Helen Bonfils with the explicit charge of transforming the city into a theatre town. His life was dedicated to doing such. But Henry did more than that: Henry transformed the stage into a place where all people could be seen.
Henry’s stage was a multicolored multicultural domain, where people of all ethnicities were equal–whether it was at the first Denver Civic Theatre, which later became the Bonfils Theatre and later the Lowenstein, or later still, when he transformed the Cameron Building, former home of the Cameron movie theater into the Denver Civic Theater, which is now the present home of Su Teatro.
Henry was a firm advocate of social change and utilized the stage for that purpose. Along with the many mainstream musicals and comedies, Henry produced works by African-American playwrights, with African-American directors and African-American casts. He also brought El Teatro Campesino to perform for extended residencies, in Denver’s parks. The festival caravan gave thousands of people access to theatre and ideas and art in communities where survival was a day to day activity. For communities in need of bread, Henry also brought, “ roses.” For young people of color, whose parents brought them out to see the theatre, they were able to see surrogates of themselves on the stage sing and shine. Those shows offered a most valuable commodity — hope.
Decades later, Henry would establish the Denver Civic Theatre in Denver’s Westside with a strong multicultural component. He hosted the Latino Dance Festival, theater performances and collaborated with groups such as Su Teatro. Henry retired from the theater, but was very active in the theatre and arts scene. The Denver Civic Theatre morphed in a variety of manifestations, but in 2010 through a strange twist of fate, in a story that probably Henry would have written himself, and thanks to the intervention of then Mayor and now Governor Hickenlooper, Su Teatro purchased the Denver Civic Theater. Still bearing the name of the Denver Civic Theatre over our door, the facility will always remain the “ house that Henry built.” As I received the news that Henry had passed, I could hear our students in the theater practicing, acting, singing and creating. It was in their voices that I heard hope. Thank you Henry, for the hope.
Su Teatro located at the Denver Civic Theatre