'Perception' promises to bend your mind and move your feet

by NewsCenter Staff | Apr 03, 2015

By Elizabeth Jewitt

For the DCPA NewsCenter

Perception will be a massive theatrical undertaking unlike anything Off-Center @ The Jones has ever done before.

“In fact, we call ourselves Off-Center at The Jones, but this time we're not (even performing) at The Jones, which is exciting,” said Charlie Miller, one of three Perception directors.

Perception quoteInstead, Perception is an immersive, interactive theatrical experience that will take place in the red-bricked Newman Center for Theater Education across the street from the Denver Performing Arts Complex at 13th and Arapahoe streets. Audiences are being told to come prepared for anything. And be prepared to move.

“The concept of the show is that Professor Phelyx sends the audience on a journey to gain awareness around perception,” Miller said. “It's almost like living in a video game.”

Off-Center is the DCPA Theatre Company's theatrical testing ground. Perception is considered “immersion theatre” because it is not taking place in a traditional theatre space, and the audience is never seated. Instead they travel through a series of rooms, where all of their senses will be provoked and challenged.

A major component of the experience will be live music in each room composed for Perception by Tom Hagerman of the local band DeVotchKa, which will be adapting the musical Sweeney Todd for production by the DCPA Theatre Company next season.

Perception. Photos by John Moore. “There's been a growing trend around this type of theater, and some really exciting work happening out of London and New York,” Miller said. Since 2011, Sleep No More has been attracting a whole new theatre audience to an abandoned Manhattan meatpacking building that a British theatre company turned into a 1930s-era hotel where inside, an adaptation of Macbeth plays out over five dimly lit floors.

"But this kind of theatre has never happened at the DCPA before, and we are excited to be experimenting with that,” Miller said.  

Perception audiences will also walk at their own pace through a variety of theatrically designed rooms. Their host is Denver native Phelyx Hopkins, better known as Professor Phelyx.

Hopkins has been performing his mentalism craft for more than 34 years. So naturally, Professor Phelyx was the go-to guy for the Off-Center creative team to go to.  

“I am blown away that so many people are putting this much work into a show, and they've been working on it all day, every day for a long time,” Hopkins said. “We started writing this thing eight months ago, and it's come a long way. I couldn't be more happy to work with such a capable team.”

Hopkins describes himself as a comedic mind reader, “but there's a big, skeptical side to me,” he said. The audience can expect a “strong dose of skepticism, a lot of humor, mixed with unexplainable elements that look like mind reading or psycho-kinetic metal bending.”

The show begins with an introduction from Professor Phelyx. Audience members then will be whisked away in small groups to explore each room where fantasy will become reality, and reality will become mere fantasy.

“I think that everyone is going to have a unique experience,” Hopkins said. “At the end of the show, we expect audience members to talk with each other and discover that they missed something. But they got to see something that someone else missed. I hope the audience leaves with a sense of empowerment.”

Miller describes Perception as a proudly abstract show. “It really calls for someone with a sense of adventure and an open mind to try something new and to be taken out of their  comfort zone,” he said.

Hopkins guarantees something for everyone. “There are a couple of experiences we've designed to allude to how a politician might lie or how product marketing is designed to be a little deceptive,” he said. “I'll teach a few techniques for parents to detect when their children are lying. I'll teach techniques to tell how anyone is lying, for that matter. A lot of it is left for interpretation, so I think that is a part of why everybody is going to have a different experience.”

Perception will have a limited engagement of just five performances with only 120 tickets available for each. Because audience members will be on their feet for the majority of the experience, comfortable clothing and shoes are recommended. The show is handicap accessible. 

The directors of Perception are Miller, Allison Watrous and Bob Davidson. The  Production Manager is Melissa Cashion. The Producer is Emily Tarquin. The production team includes Topher Blair, Meghan Anderson Doyle, Eileen Garcia, Frank Haas, Erika Kae, Matthew Plamp and Nicholas Renaud. The Production Stage Manager is D. Lynn Reiland.

Noah Anderson
Danyelle Coble
Peter Farr
Lija Fisher
Ali Francis
Rachel Gibbons
Rob Leary
Iona Leighton
Kevin Richard McGuire
Leigh Miller
Jacques Morrow
Sam Provenzano
Aspen Roder
Mackenzie Sherburne
Zach Tait
Austin Terrell

Perception: Performance information:
April 10-25, 2015
Performances 8 p.m. Fridays April 10, 17 and 24; Saturdays April 18 and 25
At the Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education, corner of 13th and Arapahoe streets
Tickets $25
303-893-4100 or buy online

Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa will be providing original music for each of the rooms in 'Perception.' Photo by John Moore. Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa will be providing original music for each of the rooms in 'Perception.' He's pictured above performing at the DCPA's Holiday Box Office in December. Photo by John Moore.


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  1. Wade Sellers | May 12, 2015

    I had a completely different read on this night than those who commented before me.  I believe this was a performance that allowed you to let go of the constant adult worry that it's all for purpose every step of the way.  You were enabled to be a child again where the world goes on around you, simply because it does.  I allowed myself to let go and just let the show take me on the journey and I came out happy, bewildered, confused, excited, and ultimately in a state that required further contemplation.  I believe that is the point to Perception.  You can't make sense of every bit and you will fail trying.  

    Just let yourself immerse into the wonder of Professor Phelyx's world just as Charlie did in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.  Trust the process and bask in the fact that you bought a night that required no logical calculations in your brain. You got to just view, interact, and enjoy the splendor of a unique world that enveloped you the second you stepped into the building.

    I for 1, hope to have an opportunity in future theatre outings to let myself be taken over by the show and to merely "sit back, relax, and enjoy the show".

  2. Wade Sellers | May 11, 2015

    I for 1 saw this incredibly different than the 2 above me. The night was complexly mesmerizing. Quickly into the show, my guard was dropped and I began to move with the ebb of the night's journey. In any 1 point, you could ask yourself "what's the point?" and that is simply the incorrect question to stew on yet. Until you reach the ending, converse with others, slide into bed later and think on everything that just occurred you cannot provide an answer. The question is too premature at that stage of the evening. You must let it invoke you, perplex you, throw you off balance, and then you may begin to ask those questions of purpose if you so need an answer to them. Personally, I don't feel the answer is the goal... It's the feeling, the emotional waves, the reminiscence of a time when purpose was not the goal of all and when you were able to wonder just for the sake of pure joy in imagining things that cannot be upon you all the time. 

    This is a night that your childhood craved. A night of imagination and wonder. Did you ever want to be a part of Willy Wonka's tour? I felt as though I was sifting through the cerebral layers of Professor Phelyx, himself. The mood, music, and continually changing acts play at your senses. You simply do not have enough of as an adult... to just give in to what is happening around you. 

    This show is an escape from "normal" while depicting a beautiful world, I personally, wish were the world everyday. I want to wonder into the unknown while feeling protected along the way. Professor Phelyx and his amazing surrounding talent take you on a most unique ride and you must remember the joy and wonderment of your childhood, back when things happened just because they do. 

    I for one, will look at intimate theatre differently for the remainder of my life and will always hope future shows will capture my awe and present me something that makes me forget that this was a show and I paid to be there. 

    -Wade Sellers

    a most entranced and happily changed man. 

  3. Phelyx | May 11, 2015

    You found it, Kathy!

    PERCEPTION was a collaborative theater experiment that was designed by a team of more than thirty professionals and required a team of forty for every run. I grant you that much of the design was potentially (and has since proven to be) too abstract for closed hearts and minds and for those who no longer posses an imagination. However, there is no questioning that the production included many of the finest, most skilled talents in the business. A statement that is true of those theater professionals who masterfully worked a spotlight and of those whom the audience did not ever see.

    So, what did you find, Kathy? You found the point, even well beyond that your PERCEPTION of the experience is on one extreme end of a full spectrum of perceptions of the same show. There were 119 people in the audience alongside you. The experience was different for every one and not a single one witnessed more than 25% of what was being performed.

    PERCEPTION was an audience experience designed to continue even after our audiences left the facility and BOY did we deliver! Audience members were seen talking with other audience members (who were complete strangers) for up to an hour after the show. They exchanged experiences, impressions, and perceptions. Most were very pleased.

    I am sorry you did not like it, Kathy. As for your embarrassment, I am uncertain I can buy this statement. I am afraid your credibility has been undermined by your insistence that you have friends who would be willing to ride in a car with you from Colorado Springs and back. Evidenced by your less-than-sunny demeanor, this is a tough pill to swallow. If you did have company in your vehicle, I feel badly for them as I am sure they had to endure your thorny rant for at least a couple of hours after the show.

    Enjoyed it or not, thank you for continuing to talk about it.


  4. Play Loster | Apr 27, 2015
    My review isn't quite as harsh as some but I feel that the "play" was mis-named.  "Random Vignettes with some Magic," is probably what people should expect.  Honestly, the music was evocative and added to the feel, the lighting and props were well done and created different ambiances, and the actors were well rehearsed though their parts were limited.  Overall, I kept waiting for the thread to bring it together and explain what was happening.  In truth, there did not seem to be a common thread; it was performance art set in a 1920's themed period.  When they told us it was time to get our coats and head down the stairs I was thinking, "Okay, here it comes...the big reveal."  Nope, we were outside on the sidewalk.  Huh.  So, as a word of advice to anyone reading this, just allow yourself to take in the sights and sounds and don't analyze it - it's not, "Brain Games," from TV; it's more-or-less random performance art set in the 1920's with some magic and mysticism sprinkled in.
  5. Kathy Seehafet | Apr 19, 2015

    This was by far one of the worst performances I have ever seen.  I received tickets as a gift and invited neighbors to join us.  I was thoroughly embarrassed that I asked them. We drove up from Colorado Springs.   What a waste of time and money! The only remarkable thing about this farce was the marketing and advertising that convinced so many people to buy tickets.  Unbelievably they were sold out!! People swinging on trapezes in a darkened room and a game to find your childhood match!!  Really this is about illusions and fantasy??  I must have missed the "professor"'s techniques to detect when someone is lying. The only lying I detected was in the description of what the audience was going to experience.  I really love the theater, but this was just pure garbage. 

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    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

    DCPA is the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. We think of theatre as a spark of life — a special occasion that’s exciting, powerful and fun. Join us today and we promise an experience you won't soon forget.