The Fabric Lab
Performing Arts: Jessica Robblee
Blond-haired, blue-eyed Jessica Robblee once played Cha Cha DiGregorio, the very bad girl in Grease. And while Robblee admits the casting was "somewhat preposterous," that ninth-grade experience sparked a love of theater in the Army brat.
She didn't return to the stage again in high school, though, choosing instead to play sports. But in her sophomore year at Davidson College in North Carolina, Robblee grew tired of athletics and began reconsidering her life path. "I thought, 'When was I last really, really happy?' and it was doing that play," she says. "As awkward as I was -- and boy, was I awkward -- it was fun. I'm into the fact that it's a collaborative effort. I really liked how you can do magical things really simply. And the cool thing is that it lets all different kinds of people in. It's a place where difference thrives."
And the unique personality of Jessica Robblee has certainly thrived in Denver's theater scene.
She moved to town eight years ago "for young love," she recalls, and while the boy is long gone, she's still here acting and teaching and hustling to keep her career moving forward. Right now she's performing in Aphrodisiac at Curious Theatre Company, where she's getting well-deserved raves, and Ramona Quimby at the Mizel Center, while also writing and performing in tRUNks, the all-ages comic-book show that runs every other Saturday through May 5 at Buntport Theater.
Robblee got started at Buntport after a successful run with the short-lived children's-theater troupe at the Bug. Then she pitched the idea of a children's show to Erin Rollman, and it turned out that the Buntporters had already been thinking about children's productions. "I was really excited, because I'd wanted to work there for a long time," says Robblee, who is also quite partial to British comedies. "We at first were going to do something with fairy-book characters, like a militant fairy, but then it morphed into a comic-book idea, which morphed into a serial comic book. I wanted it to be a series because I wanted to be writing. I really enjoy that."
Two seasons later, she's still at it -- but also looking at ways she can improve herself and Denver. "I'd love to have a really, really healthy audience for live performance," she says. "There's a lot of stuff going on, but if it were more in the Denver consciousness that going to a play would be an incredibly fun time, I would love that. I also hope to write more full-length plays. I want to do a choose-your-own adventure. It would be so fun as an audience experience."
Cha cha cha!
Visual Arts: Jimmy Sellars
Jimmy Sellars has one of those rare brains with a bridge between the right and left lobes. He's a talented artist in his own right, but he's also a gallerist who aids other artists with their businesses. "I really just want to be a part of this community and help where I can," Sellars says.
That's quite the understatement.
Sellars has been a fixture in the Denver art scene since he moved here in 1990, but his artistic roots go much deeper. He grew up in Kansas City, the son of two artists, and was in his first show at the age of eight. "It was just a pencil drawing, and it was so great because they didn't know the age of the people who submitted stuff," remembers Sellars. "We showed up, and they're talking to us like, 'Don't you just love art?,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, that's my piece.'"
His family moved to Estes Park in 1982, and a decade later, Sellars came off the mountain and got involved with several Denver arts organizations; he also founded an international arts group. At the same time, he continued creating his own art and had his first local solo show in 1992, the same year he opened Studio 211. He had that gallery for about nine years, until the ballpark-area prices forced him out. After that, he was on Broadway for a nanosecond -- but by then he'd already found another constituency online. "I was new to the Internet, and it was very different back then," Sellars says. "I kept running into people here and there, and it was amazing how many artists were online in the beginning. I started this international group, and we had a couple of shows, several in the U.S and Mexico, and another traveling exhibit that was in Europe."
He was also experimenting with what would become his signature work: photographs of G.I. Joe dolls. His first show featuring the action hero was at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, and several hundred people turned out. "But then they all left for one of the movies that were playing," Sellars says, laughing.
That good humor has carried him over the hurdles of starting his own business, closing it and now restarting it as sellarsprojectspace, located behind the Oriental Theater. He's also formally assisting fellow creative types with their marketing and websites, even scouting potential galleries for them. And while he's working to create a Tennyson Street Arts District, he's also keeping an eye on the scene as a whole. "What I've seen, and I've always proclaimed this, is that we've always had an incredible arts scene," he says. "Being in one of the states with the lowest funding for the arts, it's amazing how much the artists have chipped in to make it as vibrant as it has been. People around the world have started to notice what is happening here, to invest more into what we do. This is really such an incredible community. I always feel fortunate to be a part of it."