April 3, 2019
DCPA Off-Center’s Charlie Miller on creating theatre for one at MCA
Charlie Miller is co-founder and curator of Off-Center, which has grown from a small theatrical test kitchen at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to one of its signature lines of programming. Off-Center’s large-scale immersive and experiential projects, including Sweet & Lucky (2016) and The Wild Party (2017), have garnered local and national praise and helped establish Denver as a hub for immersive art and entertainment. Before joining the DCPA artistic team fulltime in 2016, Charlie also served as the Theatre Company’s resident video designer, creating projection content for 35 productions in eight seasons.
What happens to a piece of theatre when the audience can influence the outcome of the story? How can theatre makers give an audience real agency in the experience while still delivering a cohesive narrative with a satisfying ending? And what happens when a show consists of just one actor and one audience member? These are the key questions inspiring Off-Center’s latest immersive production of Between Us, running this spring in locations around downtown, including at MCA Denver.
Off-Center is the Denver Center’s most adventurous line of programming. We create out-of-the-box theatrical experiences that give audiences a more active role in the story and push the boundaries of theatre. For the past five years, we have been experimenting with a wide range of immersive and experiential theatre offerings – from large-scale 360-degree productions (Sweet & Lucky and The Wild Party) to pop-up performances in public spaces (Bite-Size and Travelers of the Lost Dimension) to a headphone-guided walking tour of Denver with no actors (Remote Denver). And we also collaborate with MCA Denver each summer to bring Mixed Taste to the Seawell Ballroom.
As Off-Center continues to explore new theatrical forms and create original and personalized experiences for audiences, we are developing three unique one-on-one experiences in Between Us. Each experience is created by a different team of artists, bringing together some of the country’s most exciting immersive theatre makers and performed by local actors. In The Deck of Cards, your guide interprets your cards and opens your eyes to the ways your path has led you to this moment and the events where a single choice could change your future. The Whiskey Tasting invites you and a friend to explore the history and nuanced varieties of the spirit with an intriguing bartender leading your way.
And The Blind Date sets you up on a blind date at MCA Denver. You’ll meet the performer in the gallery (museum admission is included in the ticket price) and wander through the exhibitions talking and taking in the art. The piece is a half-scripted, half-improvised conversation between actor and audience member that delves into the ways we both hide and expose ourselves in the familiar and strange ritual we call dating. Audience members will inspire the twists and turns of the encounter, and by the simple act of being yourself, your rendezvous will be unlike any other. The Blind Date is also a weird and wonderful new way to experience the museum and the three awesome exhibits on display right now.
The Blind Date is created by Capital W, a Los Angeles-based joint venture of longtime collaborators Lauren Ludwig and Monica Miklas, whose works explore unconventional, immersive, and site-specific theatre. LA Weekly called their first production, Hamlet-Mobile, “pure gold,” and their one-on-one piece Red Flags won the Immersive Critic's Circle "Best Overall Immersive Work" award. They are at the top of their game, and we are lucky to have them creating this new piece specifically for MCA Denver and the current exhibitions.
My hope is that these experiences are an exercise in empathy. They provide the unusual opportunity to create a deep connection with a stranger and help us see the world from a different point of view. Ideally, this can wake us up from the monotony of our everyday routine and give us a new perspective on our own lives.