Now Showing: Chip Walton and Brian Freeland

A scene from the LIDA Project's summer production "Watershed."
A scene from the LIDA Project's summer production "Watershed."

For this year's Now Showing, Westword's fall arts guide (you'll find it tucked into our September 26 issue), we asked artistic movers and shakers to answer a few questions about the state of the arts, both locally and around the world. We'll be rolling out their answers over the next few weeks in pairs that combine both veterans and newcomers in similar disciplines. Today, we hear from independent-theater artistic directors Chip Walton and Brian Freeland.

See also: Now Showing: Kent Thompson and Emily Tarquin

Now Showing: Chip Walton and Brian Freeland

Chip Walton, producing artistic director, Curious Theatre Company.

With help from a dedicated board and band of actors, Chip Walton has fashioned Curious Theatre Company into one of the most visceral stages in town by always looking forward and following national trends in theater and the best new works from across the country. His productions aim to stick with audiences long after they've left the building.

What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene? I've been encouraged over the past several years to see the arrival of so many new theater companies. I think that is indicative of a healthy cultural community that encourages the initiative and innovation of a younger generation of artists. I also think that there's been a groundswell of support for the development and production of new work, and that makes me very happy, as well.

What could be done to improve the scene?

I'm always amazed at the local talent in our theatre community, but I am also equally amazed at how many of those talented artists end up not staying in our community, to build their career. And I think a lot of that has to do with producing organizations stepping up to the plate to pay their artists a wage that makes their decision to stay in Denver an easier one. I wish that we could pay a lot more to artists at Curious, but I hope that we pay enough to help a local artist piece together a living over the course of a season. I've always thought about a cultural community like an ecological community: There has to be all levels of the food chain intact for that community to survive in balance. And I think the Denver theater community desperately needs a few more mid-sized organizations to attract artists here and help them stay here.

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

I've been incredibly fortunate to have had several instrumental mentors in my life, who have shaped my artistic vision and professional career. But with his recent passing, I was reminded of someone who is likely the reason that I ever started Curious in 1999, and his name is Herbert Blau. Blau wrote The Impossible Theatre in 1964, and that manifesto, more than anything else in my life, brought me to the point that I am today.

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

I'm certainly excited about the bevy of world premieres at the Denver Center this upcoming season -- especially by such exciting writers as Marcus Gardley and Matthew Lopez. And I also have this sense that based on the last several seasons, good work (wherever it is produced) has been appropriately rewarded by big and discriminating audiences. I hope that is a trend that continues, and I will certainly be watching that throughout this next season.

Find more information about Chip Walton and the Curious Theatre Company online.

Continue reading for our interview with Brian Freeland.  

Now Showing: Chip Walton and Brian Freeland

Brian Freeland, Artistic Director, The LIDA Project.

Brian Freeland, though hardly a newcomer (he's been leading the LIDA Project in Denver for nearly twenty years), is a champion of original works as well as classics restaged in contemporary and futuristic terms. His shock-and-awe style makes a lasting impression as well, as does his carefully crafted sound design.

What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

The risks in performance/theater are diminishing at a rapid rate -- with that diminished risk comes predictable and tepid offerings. Between the loss of arts coverage, reallocation of public resources away from performance based work, and the continued "festivilization" of live performance, the performance community has lost the ability to connect meaningfully with audiences. Space continues to be an issue. Not performance space this time, but development space. With the continued explosion of development, the ability to house and incubate long-term work for performance groups is becoming increasing more difficult and unaffordable. Without incubation and the ability to take non-financially devastating risks, the scene stagnates.

What could be done to improve the scene?

Creative failure spaces. Spaces where work can fail while artists work out their shit. Real financial support. Livable wage kind of support. Support that allows makers of performance the ability to, well, make performance. Financial support that pushes innovation rather than organization. Expanded arts coverage and promotion. Put the coverage back in the hands of the community. Reviews are not enough, blogs are not enough. The community needs a real campaign to encourage  people to take risks with their time. 

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

I have been inspired most by those who carved (and in some cases continue to carve) out a place for avant-culture in Denver. I revere the memory of Al Brooks and Maxine Munt, who pioneered performance in Denver at the old Changing Scene. I was inspired by Dan Hiester and his intelligent politically minded City Stage Ensemble. I continue to be inspired by the ever-political and community-minded Tony Garcia. Mostly, I have been inspired by the hundreds of artists and arts spaces that have lived just for a moment to make art in spite of all that was put in its way. 

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

Despite all the obstacles, I am constantly amazed at the work of those who need to make their work. Adam Stone and his new company, Screw Tooth, are very exciting, as is performer/playwright Rhea Amos, both of whom have new works and ideas premiering this fall.  

Go online to find out what's happening this season at the Lida Project.

Come back to Show and Tell tomorrow for our interviews with gallerists Ivar Zeile of Plus Gallery and Rebecca Peebles of GroundSwell Gallery.

To keep up with the Froyd's eye-view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.



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