100 Colorado Creatives: John Moore
#49: John Moore There is no greater friend of Denver theater than John Moore, a self-described storyteller given to telling its stories in great -- and loving -- detail. On his CultureWest.org website, the former Denver Post critic has laboriously followed the work of his friends in theater, of which there must be scores, if not hundreds. Now Moore's solo efforts will be further legitimized with his new gig as Associate Director of Content Strategy for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. It's a fancy title for what he's been doing all along. Only he'll be able to do it better now -- if that's possible.
It's a job that feels tailor-made for Moore, an enthusiast who wears his love of theater proudly on his sleeve. And since he's just starting that job, it feels like an opportune time to get to know this new face of the Denver Center -- so we invited Moore to tackle the 100CC questionnaire on the brink of the fall theater season. As you will find out, Moore -- who understatedly calls himself "one bloated Colorado Creative" -- has plenty to say. And expect to see lots more Moore in the future.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
John Moore: I went through a serious Joan of Arc crush. I blame my six years as an altar boy. Here was a woman some say was charged by God himself with keeping France out from under the control of the marauding Brits. Others say she was a raving schizophrenic who heard voices in her head, and not only acted on them -- hundreds of people died following her into a fool's errand. Her vanquished foes reported she was surrounded by light even in darkness, and that clouds of butterflies followed in her wake.
Beyond what she continues to represent -- an anarchic feminist 600 years before her time -- I love the chasm of potential interpretation she left for others to fight over: Was she a saint, a witch, a freak, a lunatic, a Kill Bill-worthy bad-ass in league with the devil? I want to exit this Earth leaving that kind of ambiguity behind. I envy her courage. And as a writer, want that interview. If not her? Hmmm ... Maybe Liz Phair, circa "Exile in Guyville," before she threw it all away and went all Goo-Goo Dolls.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Erin Rollman is a Denver actor who just gave up one of her kidneys to a total stranger, setting off a chain of five kidney donations that have saved five lives. She allowed me to follow her for a month leading up to the operation. It's my last freelance piece for the Denver Post, and it should be coming out in a few days. I can't think of a better way to say goodbye after so many years of storytelling at the Post. I adore Erin as an actress, I am intimidated by her intelligence, and I am now awed by the way she looks at the world. Writing her story was a blessing.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Nothing makes me less calm than encountering anything to do with the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster series. I actually anticipate the day when someone snaps and goes all 'D-Fens' Foster in response to an oversized greeting card screaming at him to calm down. Okay, that someone might be me.
What's your day job?
After eighteen months during which the answer to that question would have been *awkward* ... I am now proud to say I am the first-ever Associate Director of Content Strategy for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Now I'm assuming your follow-up question is, ".Wha...?" So, allow me: In essence, the Denver Center has created a position that will allow me to do what I think I do best -- tell stories -- focused on everything that is happening at the leading regional arts center between Chicago and L.A. All while continuing to cover the surrounding theater community through my own arts and culture web site, CultureWest.Org.
I think the Denver Center has taken a bold, forward-thinking, innovative step here. (But of course I would, wouldn't I?). The Denver Center understands that in this age of the diminishing traditional media, those nonprofit organizations that once depended on the media for coverage now have the responsibility -- and the opportunity -- to tell their own stories. That the Denver Center chose to hire an experienced and (hopefully) credible journalist to tell theirs is a move that, if successful, could prove to be a model for others around the nation.
The key to this experiment's success is for me to produce content that abides to the same strict journalistic principles that have always guided me, and that the public continues to perceive of me as a source for reliable information and well-told stories. The Denver Center is in the process of creating a web repository where you can find all of my content -- video, photography and writings -- in one place. In the meantime, I am posting to CultureWest.Org.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I once had a life insurance policy through the Denver Post, and because I have no direct dependents, I instructed my lawyer/brother to split the booty -- half among my extended friends and family; half among the ten local theater companies that were the most interesting to me at the time. I included my initial list as part of my "death instructions," but then I started adjusting it every few weeks.
So I, ahem, don't have that policy anymore, but I thought it was a great way of taking stock. It was an idea I had stolen from a buddy in North Carolina who did the sweetest thing twenty years ago. One day he whipped out this tattered sheet of paper that had more than 100 names on it -- but all but six were scratched out. My name was on it. And not scratched out. He explained it was a list he kept of the six friends he wanted to be the pallbearers at his funeral. When one name goes on, another has to come off. (Sorry, sucker.)
Some call that story maudlin, but I found it to be an ingenious means of staying present with the people who mean the most to you at any given time in your life. ... Oh yeah, you asked about unlimited funds for life. Well, I just started a new nonprofit called the Denver Actors Fund. So I would put all the money into that, and then sit back and enjoy knowing that it was helping local artists. The very people who bring joy and wonder and challenge into our lives every single day are the ones who often work multiple jobs with no health insurance and might go years between dental cleanings -- all to pursue their dreams and enrich us. So that seems like a good home for unlimited funds. (And by the way, I'm sure I got scratched off my North Carolina buddy's pallbearer list sometime circa 1998. But that's okay-- I was there!)
What's one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
The current Imagine 2020 effort, of which I am a part, is way too bloated and structured, but I support its intent: (Too many) Colorado creatives have been charged by Mayor Michael Hancock with creating the city's first master culture plan since 1989. The (great) goal: Imagine how best to engage citizens, build creative economies and foster a greater appreciation for the arts among all citizens. I just hope the plan turns out to be more about innovation and action than pontificating philosophies. My pet focus: Creating careers for artists. I think big businesses, even big financial institutions, should hire staff artists -- much like the Denver Center is now hiring journalists. Everyone wins.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Why, that would have to be either Garrett Ammon of the dance company Wonderbound (your Colorado Creative No. 84), or Adam Stone, founder of Screw Tooth Theater (your Colorado Creative No. 50). I saw Garrett's recent work with Nick Cave at the Denver Art Museum, and you can just feel his momentum. His commitment to cross-discipline collaboration is how all arts organizations should be thinking. Adam Stone is at present my favorite freak by so, so, so far.
I just acted in a play for the first time since college -- a 1960-something rant about the theater called Offending the Audience by Austrian Peter Handke. It was the Germinal Stage's swan song after 26 years in northwest Denver, so I was humbled to be part of it. But no one I talked to had ever heard of this play -- except Adam Stone, who's like, 24 years old. He not only knew the play -- he loved it. The first time I read the play, on the other hand, I wanted to punch it in the face.
Back in January, I reviewed Adam performing as The Indestructible North at the Lion's Lair. It was a solo performance art-rock piece where he came off as something of a self-immolating human paintball canister. He played keyboards with taped loops while smearing himself with paint he stored in prescription bottles. He came off as a balladeer somewhere between Freddy Mercury, Trent Reznor and Florence (and the Machine) Welch. Freak. A few weeks later, he played the sprite Ariel in Buntport Theater's lovely riff on The Tempest called Wake. At one point in the play, Ariel ran old-fashioned cassette tape through his fingers, and it made real noise. Adam had dismantled a Walkman recorder and implanted the parts in his glove, so that the sound of the tape wasn't just an effect -- it was real.
Adam lived out of his car for five years straight and just this past weekend launched his own theater company called Screw Tooth. I don't understand half the words that come out of his mouth, like when he goes off on Death Grips, Gottfried Helnwein, Olivier de Sagazan and a bunch of other people and things I've never heard of. (I do know Crispin Glover and Martin McDonough, though!). Adam is absolutely everything I am not. Which is why I love him.
What's on your agenda for the rest of 2013 and beyond?
I almost died in 2012 from an attack of diverticulitis, so 2013 has been my own personal year of "What the hell?" I directed a musical (Always, Patsy Cline), I acted in Offending the Audience, and next I am both writing and directing one chapter of the LIDA Project's upcoming mass exploration of the gun issue in America. It's called Happiness Is a Warm Gun.
I am also so grateful for the local response to my new Denver Actors Fund. We already have a board of directors, an advisory council and $3,500 in the bank. My goal by year's end is to achieve full nonprofit status from the IRS. Mostly I want to maximize this opportunity with the Denver Center. And I take it as a personal challenge that people a year from now still see me as a credible journalist. After taking my hits, I am going to remember 2013 with great fondness.
Who do you think will get noticed in Denver's theater world this year?
Happiness Is a Warm Gun will play in six parts, and not in a theater but rather in host people's houses and apartments throughout the metro area. The other contributors are Hugo Jon Sayles, Marty McGovern, Geoffrey Kent, Brenda Cook Ritenour, Thomas Sheridan and Brian Freeland. A dream team. The performance dates are November 8 through January 25.
There are lots of other exciting theater projects in the works. I'll mention three: Curious Theatre's season-opener, After the Revolution (opening September 7), is Amy Herzog's drama about a clan of leftist radicals jolted by a family secret. The Denver Center Theatre Company's Just Like Us (opening October 10) is an original adaptation of Colorado First Lady Helen Thorpe's book about four North High School students whose parents entered this country illegally from Mexico. All four girls have grown up in the U.S., but only two have documents. I'm also intrigued by the Catamounts' Failure: A Love Story (opening October 10). That's a musical about the struggles of three sisters living in the rickety two-story building by the Chicago River in 1928. As you can tell, I could go on ... and on...
Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.
Do you have a suggestion for a future profile? Feel free to leave your picks in the comments.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.