Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin are multi-taskers at the Denver Center Theatre Company: Miller is a techno whiz for DCTC shows, while Tarquin coordinates new productions. But on the side -- the off-center, you might say -- they curate the DCTC's underground series Off-Center@The Jones, an alternative theater experience that blends improv, performance art, partying and a pinch of sheer madness for younger audiences looking for something sophisticated yet different to do on a budget. Together, the dynamic duo of Off-Center share an eye for what works, both onstage and behind the scenes, and put on smart productions that leave audiences happy -- and perhaps a bit tipsy -- when they leave the theater.
Past productions have ranged from the long-running crowd-pleaser Cult Following, a movie-inspired improv mashup, to Stuart Sanks's Drag Machine, a history of drag and its glittery milieu; they've even hosted a show completely performed on bicycles. Off-Center@The Jones kicks off its third season at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, September 12 at 8:30 with a Season Opening Party that will unveil and preview new and returning shows. You'll have to be there if you want to be first to know -- but the event at the Jones Theatre, located on the backside of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, is free. For information visit the Denver Center online.
Miller and Tarquin are playing coy, then, about spilling the beans here, but they did tackle our 100CC questionnaire with aplomb. Continue reading for a look at life and culture from a pair of hilarious and sassy thinkers.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Emily Tarquin: Probably Salt-N-Pepa. I feel like all of my life lessons came from their CD Very Necessary...I'll definitely have my kids listen to it. So I would be interested in doing a theatrical version of it -- they are masters of verse, and I'd love to see them create live.
Charlie Miller: Buster Keaton. I have always been a fan of his work. I'm particularly interested in how his career went from vaudeville to silent film and then immediately ended with the advent of talkies.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
CM: Tim Brown, who wrote Change By Design, the book I just finished. I'm really interested in design thinking, which is a term I first heard two months ago, but we've been practicing it without knowing what it was called for years.
ET: Ed Iskander, the artistic Director of Exit Pursued by a Bear. One of the last times I was in NYC, a director I was working with said there was someone I had to meet and who I would really hit it off with. So with some serious blind trust, I ventured to a somewhat sketchy neighborhood to meet this guy at his apartment...which also happened to be the performance space of Exit Pursued by a Bear. They host five-hour experiences where you eat dinner, watch the actors get ready while laying around on pillows, see a full production and have dessert at intermission. I just loved what he is making happen.
Continue reading for more from Emily Tarquin and Charlie Miller.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Emily & Charlie: There are a lot of theater formalities that we have killed at Off-Center. While there will always be room for a traditional theater experience, it's not for everybody. We want a more raucous and lively night in The Jones, and we've had to let go of things to achieve that. Things like cell phone announcements, stopping people from eating and drinking and talking and texting, high ticket prices and the show only happening on stage. We have a bar that's open throughout the show that people walk across the stage to get to. We try to have an experience outdoors, in the lobby, in the bathrooms...the minute you walk up. We err on the side of chaos versus order in hopes that the audience and performers have the best time possible -- together.
What's your day job?
ET: Artistic Associate/New Play Coordinator at the Denver Center Theater Company.
CM: Multimedia Specialist/Resident Projection Designer at the Denver Center Theater Company.
Emily & Charlie: Our shared additional job is curating Off-Center @ The Jones.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
ET: I would run a gay club with the most amazing drag shows that would in turn give back to the community. What better way to raise money and awareness than with really awesome shows.
CM: I want to make a human exhibit at the zoo, next to the primates.
ET: We can do that without money...
Continue reading for more from Emily Tarquin and Charlie Miller.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
ET: I always say that Denver has everything, but you'd be lucky to find out about half of it. And while that underground, anti-promotion, awesome-things-happening vibe is great - it would also be cool to have an app or website that centralizes everything that happens in the arts and makes it easier to find out what's going on and how to participate. I also think having big collaborations with lots of organizations would keep us from being so isolated and build a stronger community.
CM: More money for the arts wouldn't hurt, either.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
CM: Adam Lerner
ET: Shirley Delta Blow
What's on your agenda for the rest of 2013 and beyond?
ET: Coming up, Charlie is designing projections for Just Like Us, I'm assistant-directing The Most Deserving and we have our Off-Center Season Release Party on September 12, where you can find out about all the crazy shows we have in store for this year. Plus it's free, and we give out free beer all night long.
Who do you think will get noticed in Denver's theater/improv community this year?
Emily & Charlie: Adam Stone and Laura-Ann Samuelson for their new company, Screw Tooth, performing their first production ever, Some Kind of Fun, at Buntport. And in improv, we can't help but think of Sarah Kirwin, who is in our show Cult Following and is producing her own show, Gay vs. Straight, which will be at Tracks this year. She is also in Dishwater Blondes and Daughters of the Revolution. We think this is her year for sure.
For more information about Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin and their theatrical experiments at the Jones, visit Off-Center@The Jones online. 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.
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