Photos by Tom Kimmell and Craig Schwartz

An engaging, inquisitive and moving work of theater.
— The New York Times

For videos, songs, and photos, check out the show's INVESTIGATE PAGE or the MEDIA PAGE.

TimeOut New York — This Beautiful City

This Beautiful City is a play with music, created from interviews with actual persons, that explores the Evangelical movement and its unofficial U.S. capital. Because of the presence of several national Evangelical headquarters, the influential megachurch New Life (formerly led by Ted Haggard), and numerous and diverse churches, questions surrounding religion and civic concerns are brought to the foreground of everyday life in this city. The Civilians' project looks at Colorado Springs as a microcosm of issues facing the country as a whole — the shifting line between church and state, changing ideas about the nature of Christianity, and how different beliefs can either coexist or conflict within a community.

The company completed its investigative phase in 2006, compiling hundreds of hours of interviews over the course of 10 weeks in Colorado Springs. Every leading church in the area participated in the project, as did numerous civic organizations, progressive activists, and individuals from all walks of life. An initial presentation took place at Colorado College in February, 2007 with the title "Save This City." The company premiered the play in 2008 at the Humana Festival for New American Plays and This Beautiful City has since been seen in Washington DC, Los Angeles and off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in New York.


Written by:
Steven Cosson and Jim Lewis

Music & Lyrics by:
Michael Friedman

Interviews conducted by:
Emily Ackerman
Marsha Stephanie Blake
Brad Heberlee
Stephen Plunkett
Alison Weller
and the authors

Commissioned and developed by The Civilians, Steven Cosson, Artistic Director, Kyle Gorden, Producing Director, with the assistance of the Sundance Institute, Colorado College, and Center Theatre Group. Development supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and Z-Space Studio, San Francisco, CA

Developed in a residency January 8th thru February 14th, 2007 at Colorado College, Tom Lindblade, Drama and Dance Department Chair, with Chris Benz, Katherine E. Dawson, Ellen J. Evers, Christine Gonzalez, Vincent Gumlich, Alexandra Hesbrook, Robin Hutchins, Hugh Johnson, Elizabeth Kancilia, Annie Kelvie, Sarah Lee, Meghan Murrah, and Adam Stone.

Special thanks to Colorado College and the staff of the Department of Drama and Dance for making this project possible, particularly Tom Lindblade, Shaylan Quinn, Christian Medovich, Tree Priest, and Dean Susan Ashley and the students. Thanks to Phillip Himberg, the staff of the Sundance Theatre Lab, and actors Billy Eugene Jones and Shannon Cochran; Michael Ritchie, Kelley Kirkpatrick and Center Theatre Group; Z Space Studio and David Dower; and special thanks to Studio Theatre, especially Joy Zinoman and Serge Seiden.

The Civilians is deeply grateful to the people of Colorado Springs who participated in the creation of this play, generously shared their time, offered their guidance, and invited us to attend their meetings, church services and family dinners. While it is impossible to list all the individuals and organizations who participated in this project, we would like to thank those organizations that offered significant and ongoing support: New Life Church, The Mill, the Revolution House of Prayer, Vanguard Church, The Citizens Project, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Woodmen Valley Chapel, and Coloradans for Fairness and Equality.


THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY received its world premiere at the Actors Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky, in a co-production with Studio Theatre, opening on March 5, 2008. It was directed by Steven Cosson, with the following cast: Emily Ackerman, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Ian Brennan, Brad Heberlee, Dori Legg, and Stephen Plunkett.

The play was subsequently presented at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., in a co-production with the Actors Theatre of Louisville, opening on June 11, 2008. It was directed by Steven Cosson, with the following cast: Emily Ackerman, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Aysan Celik, Matthew Dellapina, Brad Heberlee, and Stephen Plunkett.

It was subsequently produced by Center Theatre Group, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles, California, in a co-production with Vineyard Theatre, opening on September 21, 2008. It was directed by Steven Cosson, with the following cast: Emily Ackerman, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Brad Heberlee, Brandon Miller, Stephen Plunkett, and Alison Weller.

It was subsequently produced by Vineyard Theatre in New York, in a co-production with Center Theatre Group, opening on February 22, 2009. It was directed by Steven Cosson, with the following cast: Emily Ackerman, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Brad Heberlee, Brandon Miller, Stephen Plunkett, and Alison Weller.


Colorado Springs Return
Colorado Springs, CO. December 2009

  • "The Civilians created that cultural perspective by relying exclusively on comments taken verbatim from their own interviews with subjects, as well as public statements and media interviews."
  • Colorado Springs - The Gazette: "The musical examines the evangelical movement in Colorado Springs by using the exact words of evangelical and liberal residents interviewed in 2007."
  • Intentional Disciples: "This town may be a media by-word but it is also a town where the Christian faith is lived. In remarkable ways."
  • "The Civilians Return to Colorado Springs With This Beautiful City
  • "In keeping with the company's focus on investigative theatre, the group compiled hundreds of hours of interviews over the course of 10 weeks in Colorado Springs."
  • Colorado Springs Independent: "A Springs—created and—based play returns for an encore religious inquiry."

Vineyard Theatre
New York, NY. (Winter) 2009: co-production with Center Theatre Group

  • New York Times: "An engaging, inquisitive and moving work of theater."
  • NY1: "Enlightening, engrossing and entertaining."
  • New Yorker: "Vivid, agenda-free and marked by a benevolent irony."
  • Backstage: "A striking piece. Compassionate and Admirable."
  • Variety: "Wicked Smart. Laughter turns to slack-jawed astonishment."
  • New York Times: Feature in Sunday Art Section
  • Time Out New York: Feature and Video Piece

Center Theatre GroupKirk Douglas Theatre
Los Angeles, CA. September 21 – October 26, 2008: co-production with Vineyard Theatre

  • Variety: "A fascinating crazy quilt on faith's role in American life."
  • Variety: "Showbiz, Religion & Politix"
  • LA Times:"The production is part documentary drama, part musical revue. The liveliness of the ensemble and the pick-me-up beat of the Christian rock numbers make even the church scenes pulse with vitality."
  • LA Weekly: "These are not parodies that load the argument to spoon feed what a lefty audience in Culver City wants to hear, but interpretations reaching for the deepest and most sincere comprehension of the characters..."
  • The Hollywood Reporter: "...a surprisingly pastoral, sympathetic elegy."
  • LA Daily News: "...the musical play is part revival meeting, part journalistic expose and sociological mediation — and fully a rich evening."
  • LA Times: "The goal of This Beautiful City was to plumb some of the 'unknowables' in a movement prone to misunderstanding."

Studio Theatre
Washington, DC. June 11 – 29, 2008: co-production with Actors Theatre of Louisville

  • The Washington Post: "the melding of revival-meeting fervor and rock-concert fever"
  • Variety: "The Civilians instead took a higher road that addresses the transgressions within a more balanced context."
  • Colorado Springs - The Gazette: "an 'important play for a jaded, political place like D.C.'...only good can come of the dialogue."
  • The Washington Post: "The Civilians' Reality Theater Gets Religion"
  • The Washington Post: "The Moving Power Of Faith and Music"
  • The Washington Post: "Zinoman says, 'letting these really hot national companies into the Studio to rehearse and develop the work, and then we'll do the premieres. That's something that we've never, ever done before.'"

Actors Theatre of Louisville — Humana Festival of New American Plays
Kentucky. March 5 – 29, 2008: co-production with Studio Theatre

  • Variety: "the material is fascinating and the excellent cast, many of whom conducted the original interviews, effortlessly transforms into a persuasive array of Colorado Springs inhabitants"
  • "a mesmerizing, fiercely intelligent portrait of Colorado Springs"
  • The New York Times: "'This Beautiful City' is not a polemical exposé in the Michael Moore mold. It is a thoughtful, exploratory foray into a world that, as the interviews make clear, was alien territory to the show's creators."
  • Total Theater: "an unsettling, fiercely intelligent dissection of the American Evangelical movement"
  • Denver Post: "the explosive and even surprising story of how the confluence of Focus on the Family, the Air Force Academy, Fort Carson, NORAD and the anti-gay Amendment 2 movement made this city at the base of Pikes Peak the logical place for evangelism to germinate and grow"
  • The Courier-Journal: "Actors' mission with the Humana to develop new works that will go out into the world and find homes in diverse venues that include regional theaters, touring groups, alternative theaters, art galleries"

Sundance Theatre Lab
Workshop. July, 2007

  • American Theatre Magazine: "as they complete their work, the Civilians's most challenging task may be convincing audiences that all the people on stage—even the ones who aren't like them—deserve serious attention."
  • Salt Lake Tribune: "draws upon the motifs of Christian pop, intercut with snippets of prayers and church speeches, to recount with dramatic urgency what happened inside the New Life Church the day Haggard was exposed."

Colorado College
Residency. January 8 – February 14, 2007

  • Dramatics Magazine: "examines through monologues and musical numbers the often explosive combination of religion and politics as it is acted out daily in the city that has become the de facto headquarters of the Christian right"
  • Colorado Springs Independent: "Through performance and music, the production aims to illustrate the myriad of religious viewpoints in Colorado Springs, and the nation."
  • The Colorado Springs Gazette: "take a weighty theme, mix in some witty dialogue and toetapping tunes, then plop it onstage like a whimsical Jell-O salad so the audience can sink into the off-kilter delicacy"
  • Newspeak: "The Civilians will give Colorado Springs residents chance to see our local culture in the mirror of a cabaret-style musical theater production"
  • Rocky Mountain News: "a New York acting company is honing its take on what makes evangelical Christians tick"
  • The New York Times: "Haggard's Accuser, and a Theater Troupe, Visit Megachurch"
  • The Denver Post: "Jones was accompanied Sunday by members of a New York- based theater troupe, the Civilians"