Jessica Austgen being a big bully in February’s “Cult Following.” The next performance is April 10.
By John Moore
Jessica Austgen is the At-Risk Coordinator and a Teaching Artist for the Denver Center’s Education Department. She heads up the STArt (Skills Through Art) Program, which teaches life skills through dramatic learning and targets at-risk and underserved populations.
She is also a geek. Seriously, a total Lord of the Rings, Veronica Mars, Lost, Benedict Cumberbatch, karaoke, Firefly geek. Which makes her the perfect addition to the cast of Off-Center @ The Jones’ Cult Following, a live, long-form improv comedy evening that returns Thursday, April 10. If you don’t know Jessica … well, you’re about to know more about her than you know about anyone named Kardashian.
Andrew Garman in “The Christians,” “a dazzling, challenging play about faith in America,” at the 2014 Humana Festival in Louisville, Ky.
By Douglas Langworthy
Denver Center Literary Manager
The Denver Center’s annual new-play festival, the Colorado New Play Summit, which just turned 9 this year, is one of a number of similar festivals across the country. The granddaddy of them all, the Humana Festival in Louisville, Ky., turns 38 this year. Last weekend, I traveled to Louisville with Colorado New Play Summit Coordinator Emily Tarquin to check out the plays and do a little festival compare-and-contrast.
One of the main differences between our festivals is that Humana doesn’t do readings of the plays. They do productions, both partially and fully staged. The first show we saw was a bare-bones, in-the-round staging of Partners by Dorothy Fortenberry. Two couples, one married and straight and one not married and gay, lead contemporary New York lives. The action centers around Clare and Ezra’s plan to start a food truck and Clare’s intrusive desire to see Ezra marry his boyfriend. All of the relationships in the play are put to the test and no one is left unscathed in this comedy/drama that feels very current, down to this generation’s love of wordsmithing (my favorite was “monogomish”).
In this ongoing series, we pair a craftsperson with their craft, and talk about how that craft contributes to a currently running production.
By John Moore
How many regional theatre companies have a director of I.T. who doubles as a satanic game-show host?
Safe to say, there’s only one Bruce Montgomery.
Video appearance by Buntport Theater’s Brian Colonna in “Date*” (Note: Profanity.)
By John Moore
Luciann Lajoie’s “Date*,” an ever-evolving, digitally enhanced exploration of online dating, moves to its next stage of development tonight with its opening at the Long Center for The Performing Arts in Austin, Texas.
"Date*" was given first life in 2012 by Off-Center@The Jones, the Denver Center’s lab for exploring new theatrical innovations curated by Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin. It began as Lajoie’s own obsession with internet dating but has since expanded to multiple storylines.
Off-Center is a new theatre experience developed by the Denver Center Theatre Company. It’s theatre that feels like a night out – fewer formalities, less sitting still, more beer, more fun. Everything is guided by the desire to be immersive, convergent, connective, inventive and “in the now.” Its curators — Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin — recently gave their “recipe” for this innovative theatre experience to Theatre Communications Group.
Free beer (or even cheap beer) may be the easiest and fastest way to tap into a new audience. Drinks, food, socializing, and costumes (on the audience, not the performers) are what young Denver locals look for in a night out. Translation: they aren’t looking for theatre.
By Megan Quinn
Freelance Writer, Team-OFF Member (Off-Center’s External Committee)
What happens when one woman discovers online dating and becomes addicted to the rush?
The result is DATE*, the world premiere play presented by Off-Center @ the Jones. Incorporating real-life interviews with more than 100 people, Denver-based writer Luciann Lajoie weaves her own tales of the online dating world with those who have weathered disaster dates, finding the one and everything in between.
Lajoie’s one-woman performance is just one of the multimedia offerings from Off-Center, whose first season has so far included shows with improv based on movie moments, Johnny Cash cover bands and audience-powered butter-churning.
Curators Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin call Off-Center “theater that feels like a night out.”
The Jones strives to incorporate audience participation and out-of-the-box performances to capture the next generation of audiences who like theater with a dose of the unexpected. Themed costumes, drag queen hostesses, live Twitter feeds and impromptu after-show dance parties are some of the ways Off-Center invites audience interaction before, during and after the show.
The Off-Center recipe also aims to compliment The Denver Center’s diverse theater and music offerings by acting as an entry point for new artists who might not otherwise show their work at the Denver Center Theatre Company. At the same time, The Jones targets adventurous, predominantly younger audiences who normally would not attend mainstage productions.
Shows such as a hip hop history dance show and a rowdy baseball game played entirely on a Wii set the tone for The Jones’ initial prototypes last year.
Miller and Tarquin have an eye for irreverent humor, diverse stories and fresh takes on traditional and pop culture.
DATE*, Lajoie’s first play, fits the bill.
After going on a marathon string of first dates, Lajoie admitted her online dating encounters had “hijacked her life.” At first tempting and accessible with just a wireless connection, Lajoie soon discovered online dating was much more complicated than she originally thought. The hilarious, perplexing and cringe-worthy occurrences led to the framework for DATE*’s script.
Lajoie had her own stories to work with, but she also wanted to widen the conversation. So, tape recorder in hand, Lajoie interviewed over 100 people of every age, background and religion to see how their own online dates had fared.
Set to a soundtrack from local musician Ian Cooke, DATE* features Lajoie live onstage along with video projections of some of her best interviews. The stories feature people who have been fooled by Photoshop, intimidated by their first encounters and puzzled by dating rituals. Amid the ups and downs of dating life, DATE* asks audiences, “do you believe in love at first site?”
Audiences can share their own dating stories—from the horrific to the heartwarming— through Lajoie’s website or follow updates of her own story on Twitter @datetheplay.
Catch performances of DATE* 8pm, Fridays & Saturdays, April 20 - May 12. DATE* takes place at Off-Center @ The Jones, located on the edge of The Denver Center at the corner of Speer and Arapahoe.
DATE* is written and performed by Luciann Lajoie, with creative guidance by Allison Horsley, Ashlee Temple and Richard Thieriot. Curated by Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin, directed by Ashlee Temple, and produced in partnership with LuciCo, LLC.
Tickets are $16.
Off-Center @ the Jones is an offshoot of the Tony Award-winning Denver Center Theatre Company.