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Coronado High grad-turned-actor now appearing at Denver Center for Performing Arts

November 7, 2017 Updated: November 7, 2017 at 9:37 am
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Jason Veasey and Tatiana Williams in "Smart People," at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Jason Veasey always knew acting was in his blood.

The 1998 Coronado High School graduate can be seen on stage in "Smart People" at the Ricketson Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. The show runs through Nov. 19.

"I had been involved in theater since I was a kid, but I was pretty under the radar in high school. I was in choir but not heavily involved in the theater department, until I met theater teacher Elizabeth Kahn-Lanning," he said.

The teacher who inspired his career choice already has come to see the play.

Veasey, 37, is enjoying performing in Colorado for the run of the show - so much so that he is now "actively campaigning" for "Tommy" at the Denver Center in the spring.

"It's been a great homecoming," Veasey said. An "Air Force brat," Veasey said, his family moved to Colorado Springs in 1995. His parents, Donnie and Vivia Veasey, still live in the Springs.

The dramatic comedy "Smart People," written by Lydia R. Diamond in 2014, is focused on four Harvard intellectuals - a psychiatrist, physician, actor and neuroscientist - and their relationships. The play follows their sometimes difficult conversations about race and identity.

The play is sexy and provocative, Veasey said.

Jason Veasey and Tatiana Williams in "Smart People," at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. 

"I'm Dr. Jackson Moore. He's very driven, arrogant and successful, with a very hot temper," Veasey said in a recent phone interview from Ricketson Theatre. "It's been going fantastically. The audience has been really great. They've been laughing in all the right places and walking away more than a little challenged."

Veasey met director Nataki Garrett last summer at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky. Then, during casting for the Denver show, "I was on her mind, if you will." Veasey auditioned and won the part.

The role - Veasey's debut at the Denver Center - has been demanding "because of the words and the amount of language on the show," he said.

In his career, he said, "I haven't really encountered a role where I felt daunted. I lucked out in that way where I can come in for a couple of scenes and go back and check my emails."

Veasey earned a degree in musical theater from the University of Northern Colorado before moving to New York, where he's acted mainly on stage but also in films including "American Gangster" (2007) and "Mike, Mike Tan," which will be released in the spring.

His Broadway resume includes the national tour of "The Lion King." Off-Broadway, Veasey has performed in "For the Last Time" and "Popesical" and has had roles in many regional productions.

Be it in film or on stage, Veasey enjoys a good role.

"I want to do as many mediums as I can that give me a check and pay my bills," Veasey said. "I would love to do as much as I can. I don't really want to be super famous. I'm a little too grumpy for that."

His favorite actors include David Alan Grier and Jeffrey Wright, "and I am ride or die for Cate Blanchett. She's a little bit better than Meryl (Streep)," he said.

Veasey's dream roles would be to play Coalhouse Walker Jr. in "Ragtime" and any role in any play by August Wilson. "But right now I'd like to play Belize in 'Angels in America,'" he said of the role of the ex-drag queen and nurse, considered the most ethical character in the play.

Veasey had a few words of advice for young Colorado thespians.

"I don't really believe in Plan B. Just go for it. Read as many plays as possible, and don't be afraid to geek out over something you like. Don't ignore the academic aspect of theater. Know the writers and the composers, and that performers are not the only artists in theater. There are lots of others. You are part of a community. Learn about what you're doing. Don't be lazy."

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