Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS
Today’s recipients: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
Today’s award presenter: Mare Trevathan
Local Theater Company Associate Artistic Director
Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin have all the fun. As curators of the Denver Center's alternative programming series called Off-Center, they get to explore the DCPA’s wild side. And if you were not aware that the DCPA has one of those, then you haven’t yet checked out Off-Center. It’s truth in advertising.
Every theatre company in America is chasing that elusive “younger audience,” and in May, new CEO Scott Shiller announced he is using a $410,000 grant from the Wallace Foundation
to target millennials. Off-Center is a major way to do that. Now in its fifth season, Off-Center creates adventurous theatrical experiences through surprising creative collaborations with a variety of local artists. Off-Center is attempting to make theatre relevant to nontraditional audiences with immersive and entertaining outings that could be described as more “theatrical” than pure “theatre.”
Halloween was a perfect example. “Carpe Nocte
” – Latin for “Seize the Night” – was an intentional mystery outing. Ticket-buyers were told only where and when to report. "Your trials will take you on buses to the uncharted, to domains large and small, through a bedlam of loud music and bright lights," they were teased. And that’s it. Nearly 150 adventure-seekers were taken through an immersive journey in the National Western Complex that culminated in a live concert by the mesmerizing local avant-garde marching band called Itchy-O
. It was an evening of pulsating percussion and visual spectacle - with a climactic twist.
Here are a few more examples of recent or ongoing Off-Center programming:
- Cult Following: Off-Center’s signature evenings of unrehearsed, unscripted theatre led by four of Denver’s best improv actor/comedians: Jessica Austgen, Sarah Kirwin, Nanna Thompson and Chris Woolf. (Next performances: Feb. 12-13.)
- The SantaLand Diaries: Off-Center does theatre, too: For the third straight holiday season, David Sedaris’ comic monologue recounting his experiences working as an elf in a Macy’s department store is being offered (through Dec. 27) in The Jones Theatre by Off-Center in collaboration with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company.
- Perception: This massive interactive theatrical undertaking took audiences though several transformed studios in DCPA Education's Newman Building, led by illusionist Professor Phelyx. "It sent the audience on a journey to gain awareness around perception,” Miller said, using abstract concepts and evocative performance techniques such as trapeze. “It was almost like living in a video game.”
- Kick-Off Cabaret: Off-Center has a social conscience, too. These evenings celebrate innovative do-gooder entrepreneurs who are using Kickstarter to fund their projects. Off-Center invites selected Kickstarters to strut their stuff and enlist the audience’s financial support.
- Audio Kicks: Here photography meets audio meets dance: Ten original photographs inspired 10 different audio recordings that became the soundtrack for a live dance performance.
- Drag Machine: Drag Queen Shirley Delta Blow took the audience on a journey through the history of drag and the gay-rights movement.
- Lived/Relived: In partnership with local comedians who regularly host a program called The Narrators, three ordinary Denverites are chosen to tell their stories on stage with music, video, puppets and even aerial dance.
If all that sounds like a ton of fun to put together, it is. But Mare Trevathan, today’s True West Awards Guest Picker, said she thinks Miller and Tarquin's jobs come with significant expectations – and no small pressure.
“Charlie and Emily bring a sense of innovation and risk to the Denver Center,” said Trevathan, a founding member of Boulder’s LOCAL Theater Company. “But it’s one thing to take on risk and innovation from the periphery. When you do it at the most visible theatre in the region, I think that is real risk.”
Trevathan is something of a hero to the DCPA Theatre Company. In 2007, she came to the rescue by taking over for an actor who was called away from The Sweetest Swing in Baseball by a family emergency. Trevathan was not an understudy. She took over the actor's two roles on just 24 hours notice, and continued on for the next 12 performances.
She was excited to be asked by Miller and Tarquin to collaborate on a social experiment last May called Sweat. This was a fully improvised indoor biking adventure led by two performers and a musician who made up songs on the spot to accompany the action - on a tricked-out musical tricycle. BikeDenver provided a free bike valet for everyone who rode to the show – and audiences were the beneficiaries of a bike margarita blender.
And yet Trevathan, who directed, would be the first to say, with all humility and discretion, “I don’t feel like the project we made was an entire artistic success.”
And that was OK. Because Off-Center is a testing ground.
“Charlie and Emily still applauded the effort and the spirit of invention,” Trevathan said, "and that was really appreciated by all of us. They embrace the recipe that is Off-Center, and they stand by it.”
So what if Sweat did not hit the absolute center of the bulls-eye? It is called “Off-Center,” after all.
Miller, also the DCPA's full-time Multimedia Specialist, is a graduate of Colorado Academy who has been working at the DCPA since graduating from Harvard in 2008. Throughout high school, he was a member of the Phamaly family. That is the acclaimed local theatre company that provides performance opportunities for actors with disabilities. Tarquin, from Cazenovia, N.Y., is also the DCPA Theatre Company's Artistic Associate. She attended Point Park University in Pittsburgh and studied Media and Performing Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design.
For more information on upcoming Off-Center programming, click here. John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.
A scene from Off-Center's Season 5 Launch Party. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.
Our most recent Off-Center coverage in the DCPA NewsCenter:
Photos: Off-Center's 2015-16 season launch party Meet launch party host Micah White Bar Choir brings songs with shameless heart to Off-Center season launch Perception promises to bend your mind and move your feet
ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
The True West Awards began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. This year, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from around the state over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore's daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org THE 2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS
Day 1: Rachel D. Graham
Day 2: BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular
Day 3: Creede Repertory Theatre's
50th anniversary season
Day 4: Laurence Curry
Day 5: Bernie Cardell
Day 6: Susan Lyles
Day 7: John Jurcheck
Day 8: Christopher L. Sheley
Day 9: DCPA Education's 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot'
Day 10: Man and Monster: Todd Debreceni and TJ Hogle
Day 11: Shauna Johnson
Day 12: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant
Day 13: Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye
Day 14: Keith Ewer
Day 15: Allison Watrous
Day 16: Jonathan Farwell
Day 17: Bob, Wendy and Missy Moore
Day 18: Emma Messenger
Day 19: Shannon McKinney
Day 20: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
Day 21: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
Day 22: Scott Beyette
Day 23: Augustus Truhn
Day 24: Jimmy Bruenger
Day 25: The Masters of Props: Rob Costigan, Peki Pineda and Becky Toma
Day 26: Jalyn Courtenay Webb
Day 27: Andre Rodriguez
Day 28: Rebecca Remaly
Day 29: Mark Collins
Day 30: Phamaly Theatre Company's Cabaret
Bonus: Donald R. Seawell