The Bone Doctor Art Murder Mystery

By Susan Froyd

Not all interactive murder mysteries are alike. Tonight’s imaginative RedLine fundraiser, The Bone Doctor Art Murder Mystery, is a case in point. The creation of second-year RedLine resident Frankie Toan, the concept was honed by years of murder mysteries that Toan planned to celebrate his own birthday, which falls just before Halloween. For this dinner-theater production, Toan wrote the script, made the artful clues that participants can collect, and organized the entire event, which goes down over cocktails and a three-course meal at Arcana in Boulder. “This is all about fantasy and fun, and it fits in with my artwork, which is often about creating alternative realities,” Toan says. “It’s campy, but it’s also about looking for alternative worlds.”

Performed by young actors from the RedLine-based college prep theater-arts program Modest Arts, The Bone Doctorstarts out with a team of scientists working at an archaeology dig in Boulder. “They make an enormous discovery and hold an unveiling for it, where they are hoping to get more funding to finish the project,” Toan explains. For interactivity, dinner guests will each be assigned a character and then be seated with a circle of diners holding different identities.

Take a walk through Toan's world and solve the mystery of The Bone Doctor from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Arcana, 909 Walnut Street; for tickets – $125 for VIP admission, which includes a ticket to RedLine’s October 28 One Square Foot art sale and fundraiser, or $60 to $75 for the dinner event only – go to

Modest Arts a New Game in Town for Youth Theater

Craig Williamson

RINO — The Denver Metro area has a new option for youth theater, and judging by the recent production of Romeo and Juliet in a North Denver warehouse, it is high quality, edgy, innovative, and drawing committed and talented teens. Modest Arts is the brainchild of Neil Truglio, the recent former theater teacher for Aurora’s Eaglecrest High School. Truglio offers classes and productions for high school age youth that he describes as college preparatory, “high school theater without the walls of the high school.” He and the students might also add, without the frustrating intervention of school administrators.

We acknowledge that there are usually two sides to every story, but because the focus of this article is on Modest Arts going forward, we did not reach out and follow up with the school.

I spoke with Truglio following a performance of the show in mid-January.  He described his goal as preparing high school students for college theater programs, giving those with a passion for performing an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve as actors.  Truglio also works with the kids collaboratively throu
ghout the rehearsal process, letting them drive some of the content and style, taking advantage of the unique and special skills that they eachbring. Romeo and Juliet included music, dance, and singing throughout, with much of the creative force behind those aspects coming from the youth.

In this first production, all of the teens in the cast and crew were Eaglecrest students. Truglio is intent on expanding on this base to include other students, but his core will likely be his former students from the high school.  He has a very loyal following among the students and their parents, notable considering that the performance venue used for this show, a beautiful vacant RINO warehouse just a bit too close to a nearby rail line, is 25 miles from Eaglecrest High School.  Even so, the students made the trek many times, some undoubtedly relying on parent chauffeurs. And even without being allowed to post flyers at the school, the audience was chock full of high school aged kids, many of them most likely friends and supporters from Eaglecrest.

All Modest Arts performances are followed by a talkback with the cast and crew, and these kids were not shy about expressing their opinions. They emphasized the importance of taking a classic like Shakespeare and tying it to “what we experience today.” They talked about having the freedom to push themselves, saying that “the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward,” and “the sky’s the limit.” They also mentioned that they were “not censored here, and it opened us up,” describing a few things that they did which would not have been allowed in a school production, at least not at Eaglecrest. Most importantly, they talked about how this production of Romeo and Juliet “helped us grow, helped us get a sense of the real world.” These kids, like most high school theater kids, had only experienced working on productions inside the cocoon of their own high school, and sometimes this can be problematic when they graduate and try and go out into the wider world.  Even with a progressive teacher that pushes boundaries as Truglio apparently did, working outside of the school environment is a big step, but one that these kids clearly appreciate, and will learn the full benefit of once they go off to college. 

In this production, Truglio and his cast put the timeless classic Romeo and Juliet into a context and setting that tied closely with what kids experience today.  One choice was to cast Capulets and Montagues based on race. Given what I expect is a predominantly white Eaglecrest student population, this meant Romeo had a much smaller family, but it did transport the issues of the show directly into contemporary culture. The set, with multiple levels of scaffolding, the rock concert style lighting with flashing strobes and saturated colors, and the contemporary costumes in blacks and grays, all helped make the show much more accessible to today’s audience, especially the younger crowd.

Several things particularly impressed me about the performance. The energy level was high throughout, and very intense at times.  These teenagers handled the language very well, speaking quickly at most times, and rarely if ever stumbling on the Elizabethan language. This comfort with the language enabled them to communicate much more through their tone, movement, expressions, and interactions with each other.  And there were no weak actors in the cast.  Even those with smaller roles handled everything well.  With a large cast of 27, this is particularly remarkable, and is a reflection of the quality of the leadership and the commitment and dedication of the youth.

Having only one show to base predictions on is risky, but the performance of Romeo and Juliet that I experienced bodes very well for the future of Modest Arts. Integrating acting courses with regular productions is an effective way to have each support the other; it ensures that the students have opportunities to perform, and it raises the quality of those performances.  The company plans to present a musical in the spring, though specifics such as which musical and where it will be produced are up in the air.  But Neil Truglio and his loyal students seem to thrive on this uncertainty, so I expect it will be something creative, unique, energetic, edgy, and fun to watch, whatever and wherever it is. 

Theater Opening For High School Performers

Nelson Garcia, KUSA10:43 p.m. MST January 9, 2016

DENVER - Even though Neil Truglio was suspended from teaching theater at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial, that did not stop him from continuing to teach high school students his passion for the arts.

"I didn't create this for me. I created this for them," Truglio said.

Last year, he says he disagreed with a the way that administration wanted him to run the theater program at Eaglecrest and it led to his removal from the program.

"I was super upset because I figured out he wasn't gonna come back to school I was like well, what are we gonna do?" Bridget McIntosh, Eaglecrest High School junior, said.

In October, Truglio decided to start Modest Arts, a theater production company for high school students in a vacant warehouse space located in the River North area of Denver known as RINO.

"This is not high school theater. This is theater with high schoolers," Truglio said.

Jason Valenzuela is one of 27 Eaglecrest students who decided to join the production which occupies hours after rehearsal after school and on weekends.

"Neil moved on and we kinda just wanted to follow him and see what he had in store for us," Valenzuela said.

Truglio calls Modest Arts a college prep for program for any student, not just from Eaglecrest, who believe theater can help them pursue any sort of higher education from acting to science to mathematics.

"The coolest thing about doing it here is to take this 27 kids and walk into a space where theater has never been made," Truglio said.

So, he and the students are making it from scratch. They're building their own sets, designing their own light system, and working out their own acoustics.

"For him to this was crazy and he's pulling it off somehow," McIntosh said.

The Eaglecrest students are putting on a modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet which will debut on January 14. For more information,  click here:

"I do not anticipate that I will make a lot of money with this endeavor, I don't," Truglio said. "I would say that if we sold out every audience at Romeo and Juliet, we'd probably break even."

The profits of his passion, Truglio says, lies with the students.

"I get the reward of their growth," Truglio said. "I get the reward of a kid who came into the process and was okay and by the close of the process will be great."