In the fall of 1992, I was asked if I would coordinate classes for a new initiative at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) to be called the Denver Center Theatre Academy. The goal: to create a training ground for Denver’s local actors. The instructors: professional actors and directors of the Denver Center Theatre Company (DCTC). The plan: to offer weekly classes to local actors much like the acting studios in New York: Circle in the Square, HB Studios, Neighborhood Playhouse and others.
This was a major gamble. Did the Denver community even want theatre classes? Would it support them? We crossed our fingers, swallowed hard and offered four classes for adults and two classes for teenagers, serving 83 students.
Immediately, requests for additional programming began to emerge. Can you offer drama classes for children? How about support for drama teachers? Can your artists visit the schools? What about family programming? The Academy listened and carefully formulated programs that served the specific needs of our Rocky Mountain community, because it was clear that this community was every bit as passionate about theatre as New York.
Fast forward to the late 1990s. Demand by then had not only grown, it had outgrown our space. In 2002, with the generous help of many donors, the DCPA renovated the third floor of the historic Tramway Building to create the superb Newman Center for Theatre Education. It has 14 classrooms, office space and a 200-seat theatre. Each classroom is designed with a specific type of student in mind. There are dance studios, music rooms, a media studio and classrooms for all age groups, starting with our preschoolers. These facilities are the envy of performing arts organizations across the country.
This year we will have more than 2,500 students in our building. This summer, more than 900 of them filled our acting camps, performances, evening classes and private coaching sessions. The Academy’s visiting artists have taught more than 25,000 students in metro-area classrooms and have served 750 teachers and business leaders in our professional development programs.
So what’s up for the next 20 years?
Well, we don’t plan to slow down. We’re developing new in-school programming, creating more classes on site, and developing courses that merge theatre practice with today’s newest technologies.
In 20 years, I have witnessed students and faculty leave for Broadway, television and the movies. I have seen others remain here to become prominent politicians, business leaders, teachers and professional artists. I have seen students take classes as teenagers and return with their own children for summer camps.
The Academy has been blessed with dedicated artists, faculty, administration and students throughout the years. Above all, it has been blessed with wonderful benefactors who understand that what we do here greatly enhances the potential of the next generation.
Happy Birthday, Denver Center Theatre Academy. Here’s to that next generation.
Learn more about the classes and programs offered by the Denver Center Theatre Academy at denvercenter.org/education.