DCPA CEO Scott Shiller: Whose stories belong on our stages?

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Scott Shiller National Western. Photo by Olivia Jansen.
The parade that opened the annual National Western Stock Show in January. Photo by Olivia Jansen for the DCPA NewsCenter.

I recently heard someone refer to Denver as a “cow town.” As a somewhat recent transplant (one of the more than 100,000 who have moved here over the past five years), I was confused.

Scott Shiller QuoteGranted, I’ve seen the livestock parade that opens the Western Stock Show. And I know ranching is an essential part of Colorado. But I look around and I don’t see a cow town. I see a vibrant American city, growing by leaps and bounds, with one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the country. I see the country’s most-attended arts and culture scene. To borrow a term from our successful start-up scene, I see Denver 2.0.

None of this suggests our past needs to be left in the past. In fact, it’s more important than ever that we honor our heritage and keep our stories alive in the present. It’s just that our story gets richer and more expansive as we grow. America is a land of reinvention. Right now, Denver is living that promise out in a very real and exciting way.

So if our past is (debatably) bovine, what is our present? Or more to the point, who is our present? We transplants consider Colorado home now, along with all of you who have been here for years, decades or even generations before us. Thank you for welcoming us. We may be strangers but we love living here just as much as you do. We love the stories we hear about Denver’s past. And we appreciate the opportunity to add our tales to the mix.

I believe live theatre is a crucial piece of our shared storytelling experience. It’s always been a place to see both time-tested stories and fresh new perspectives. Seems like now is the time to ask ourselves whose stories belong on our stages. So what do you think, natives and newcomers? Whose stories do you want to see? Which voices from our past still resonate and which new voices deserve to be heard? How can our theatres amplify the voices that honor the cow and the now?

Let us know your thoughts by commenting at the bottom of this story.

About our Guest Columnist:
Scott Shiller, a nationally recognized Producer, Presenter and Entertainment Executive, was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in February, 2015. As President & CEO, Shiller has overall responsibility for the DCPA’s programmatic, operating, revenue, marketing, development and administrative functions. He comes to the DCPA from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where he served as Executive Vice President from 2007 to 2015. With direct oversight of programming and marketing initiatives, Shiller’s first season at the Center resulted in a $3.3 million turnaround, more than 100 sold-out performances, and a 76 percent increase in attendance. Shiller began his career working with Tony Award-winning producer Jon B. Platt on productions including Wicked (Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey), Man of La Mancha (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Sly Fox (Richard Dreyfuss), The Graduate (Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone, Jason Biggs), Blue Man Group: Tubes, Cabaret (Teri Hatcher, Norbert Leo Butz), Master Class (Faye Dunaway), Wait Until Dark (Quentin Tarantino, Marisa Tomei), Taller than a Dwarf (Matthew Broderick, Parker Posey), Macbeth (Kelsey Grammer), The Diary of Anne Frank (Natalie Portman), and The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler).

Previous conversations with Scott Shiller:
Previously, Scott Shiller posed these questions for NewsCenter readers:

*We are going to shake things up: What do you think the future of live theatre should be? Should we tear up the rulebook and see what happens? To read his essay – and reader responses, visit our NewsCenter here

*Where the wild thoughts are: What’s important to you and your family in a cultural facility? To read his essay – and reader responses, visit our NewsCenter here

*Making Cents of Arts Funding:  “Should the federal government allocate more funding to the National Endowment for the Arts?” To read his essay – and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

*Declining arts coverage: How to respond to declining arts coverage? To read his essay – and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

*Social media in the theatre: How will we, as theatre professionals and audiences, find common ground for mobile devices in theatres? To read his essay – and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

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