Ready, set … goad! Experts debate silly topics that have absolutely nothing in common. Or do they?
By Avery Anderson
For the DCPA NewsCenter
So what’s your pleasure? Telekinesis or, say … sauerkraut? Giant flutes or, perhaps … celestial navigation?
No preference, you say? That may change when those burning topics and more are lustily debated at Mixed Taste, Adam Lerner’s tag-team lecture series pairing playfully unrelated topics that enters its 14th season on Wednesday night in its new home: The DCPA’s Seawell Ballroom. The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is now collaborating on the popular series with Off-Center, the Denver Center’s most unconventional programming arm.
The comic debates will rage beginning at 6:30 p.m. for eight consecutive Wednesday nights through Aug. 23. Up first: Wild West mail delivery and post-conceptual art.
Here’s how it works: Think political debate, only the politicians are respected experts in their fields of study. The first speaks on one topic for 20 minutes, followed by the other. “The audience then gets to ask questions – and that’s where anything can happen,” said Off-Center Curator Charlie Miller.
But unlike political campaigns and sporting contests, winners are not declared. This is simply a chance for curious audiences to learn more about bizarre topics and then perhaps even draw unexpected connections between the two. Think the ability to move objects through mental prowess has nothing in common with finely cut fermented cabbage? Don’t be so sure.
Lerner, the MCA’s director and chief animator, created Mixed Taste in 2004 at The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at the Belmar Shopping Center in Lakewood. The series moved to the MCA in 2009.
The Seawell Ballroom will be an expansion for the series, which is used to topping out at 400 people. Although the Ballroom can hold up to 1,000 people, Miller says only about 450 seats will be made available for Mixed Taste to preserve its intimacy.
“MCA approached us a year ago and asked if we would be interested in hosting and giving Mixed Taste the next chapter of its life, and we jumped at the opportunity,” Miller said.
After nurturing Mixed Taste from its inception, Lerner now feels “the program is ready for its next level of growth,” he said, “and I believe Off-Center is the perfect partner to help us take it there.”
Mixed Taste is not a theatrical production, and yet Miller feels it is an inherently theatrical adventure for its audience.
“It’s a really engaging and fun summertime experience,” Miller said. “It’s a way to learn about things you never engage with and inject some new information and fun into a Wednesday night.”
Other wacky pairings on tap this summer include Prohibition and Bob Ross, Air Traffic Control and Drag Queen Activism, and Asparagus and Money Laundering.
“Each lecture is 20 minutes, which is long enough to go deep but keep your attention the whole time,” Miller said. “We try to make sure the topics have nothing in common and that makes it fun because after a while you start to think, ‘Well they do have things in common.’
So how did he come up with a roster of such non-kindred, spirited subjects?
“I used this as an opportunity to engage friends and Denver Center staff to submit ideas for topics,” he said. “Once we got some ideas we talked with a smaller group of Off-Center collaborators and teammates to narrow it down. Then we started researching people to speak on those topics.”
Miller is particularly excited for the talk on Prohibition and Bob Ross, the American painter and host of The Joy of Painting, which aired on PBS from 1983-94, while his personal favorite is telekinesis and sauerkraut (July 19), simply because it’s such a bizarre combination.
Local slam poet Suzi Q. Smith will be the series emcee.
“Off-Center collaborated with Suzi Q. last summer in our poetry show How I Got Over: Journeys and Verse that she was the lead collaborator on,” Miller said. “She will be the host and poet laureate, so we will be fusing poetry and spoken word into the evening. She will be creating an original poem to connect the two topics to conclude every Mixed Taste.”
Off-Center is bringing back other past collaborator the series as debaters. Professor Phelyx, the mentalist magician who last worked with Off-Center on Perception, will speak on behalf of telekinesis, while Shirley Delta Blow, recently seen in DragOn at the Galleria Theatre, will be rally on behalf of drag-queen activism. (Photos above right by Adams Viscom.)
Before every lecture, audiences can attend a Mixed Taste Garden Party starting at 4:30 p.m. just outside of the Galleria Theatre with live music curated by Swallow Hill Music.
Mixed Taste: Ticket information
• 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday from July 5 through Aug. 28
• Seawell Ballroom, Denver Performing Arts Complex
• Tickets: $20
• Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
• Groups: Call 303-446-4829
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Avery Anderson is interning with the DCPA NewsCenter for the summer. He is the General Manager and producer of Met TV at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He was won two Heartland Student Emmy Awards for his work on The Met Report. He has a passion for local arts and culture and enjoys covering theatres across the Denver area and the state. Follow him on Twitter and @a_anderson64.