Denver poet-playwright Bobby LeFebre is staging “Northside” for free at La Raza Park

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Colorado Poet Laureate Bobby LeFebre sits under the kiosko at La Raza (Columbus) Park in north Denver on Aug. 15, 2019. (Xandra McMahon/CPR News)

"Northside" is coming to La Raza.

Playwright and Colorado poet laureate Bobby LeFebre said one free performance of his play about family, newcomers and his neighborhood will be staged at the Sunnyside park where he hung out as a teen. The show at La Raza Park, 1501 West 38th Ave., is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sep. 28.

"Northside" opened in June at Su Teatro in the Art District on Santa Fe, where it racked up sold-out show after sold-out show and was extended three times. Last weekend Su Teatro took it to North High School, LeFebre's alma mater, where two shows sold out the 750-seat auditorium. The success made a free show financially possible, LeFebre said, adding he and Su Teatro's artistic director, Tony Garcia, have been planning the La Raza date for some time.

"It was important for us ... to spread that love around and share that wealth," LeFebre said.

He estimates at least 9,000 people have seen his play, but says with a laugh that he's "still getting messages from people who haven't seen it."

LeFebre attributed the success in part to timing, saying it came at a moment when Denverites were eager to talk about how change and growth in their city is creating stress and opportunity. Minority communities who have been most affected by the displacement that gentrification can bring were longing in particular to hear their stories told, LeFebre said.

"Art is always an amazing cultural translator," he said.

The park production will be somewhat stripped down, but will still open with projected images from the past of police violence in La Raza, a place LeFebre calls "the epicenter of Chicano culture."

The bare bones aesthetic is itself a link to history, LeFebre said, noting that Su Teatro started out doing "true community, grassroots theater" on the streets and in the parks. LeFebre was once a Su Teatro actor and remembers playing under the stars occasionally.

"It's almost more organic" than in a theater, he said. "When you're outside, you never know who's going to drive by, who's going to shout something. The connection is a little bit stronger."

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