2007 MasterMind Awards

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"Food is something for me -- we've done shows on great existential issues and the war, and people feel helpless -- but every day I eat three meals," says Oak Chezar, one of Vox's original members. "That's three chances to make a difference. We can choose to make a difference."

As passionate people out to raise the collective consciousness, that's what Vox chose to do years ago. But over the years, their voice -- like their standards -- has gotten higher. "It started with a mixed group," says Vox producer and original member Joy Boston. "And after the show, the guys -- as typically happens would leave to go party, and the women were left to clean up."

So she and Chezar and some of the other women decided to regroup without the benefit of Y chromosomes. Since then, Vox Feminista has continued to challenge audiences with a mix of poetry and performances at twice-annual shows. The members write all of the material, either as a collective or individually; they also enlist guest performers, whom they cull from open auditions. To make it all come together, they meet twice a week for three to four hours a shot, then put in additional hours writing and practicing. And they take only two months off a year from this labor of love.

But none of them can imagine life any other way. They thrive on informing people -- "We're here to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable," says Chezar and on challenging themselves, often adapting their own lives to conform with knowledge they've gained from researching show topics. On a meta level, the Fall 2003 show on white power was particularly uncomfortable; on a micro level, they quit printing Vox T-shirts after learning that the garments were produced with sweatshop labor. Now they hunt through thrift stores and put their logo on recycled tees.

What they've learned about the politics of food will be revealed when their Spring show opens on March 31. But they've already come to a consensus on the name: The Last Supper - To Go.

Film/Video/Multimedia: Tony Shawcross
Almost everyone in Denver knows about Tony Shawcross or at least about his work. They've heard about the guerrilla film project he once headed, which involved projecting movies on the sides of random buildings from a giant, biodiesel-powered bus. Or they've heard of deproduction, the nonprofit he helped found that puts media into the hands of many by teaching them how to shoot and produce their own segments. Or they've heard about his work with Denver's public-access TV.

So, yes, they've heard about his work but they probably don't know that Shawcross has a degree in business and marketing. That the poster boy for living the life of your choosing was once an IT wonk on the cubicle fast track.

But after Shawcross was laid off in 2000, his life completely changed -- for the better. He started interning with a variety of progressive media organizations, including Free Speech TV and Little Voice Productions, and spent time as a legislative aide for then-state representative Abel Tapia. He began investigating all the filmmaking options he'd wanted to explore in college but had shoved aside in favor of a more financially viable degree. "I rode my bike every day, I read philosophy, I tried anything that presented itself to me, and I spent a lot of time thinking about what life was all about for me," Shawcross wrote in a blog post about that time.

And what he realized was that the mix of politics and film had a lot more potential. So he and a group of friends who'd already created the online calendar denverevolution.org started deproduction. "I feel like I was raised on TV and a lot of my ethics and values have come from TV shows," says the Littleton High School grad who credits Star Trek: The Next Generation for creating his moral compass. "And like a lot of us, I feel like it's the most powerful medium."

In late 2005, Shawcross and deproduction stretched yet again, bidding for the contract to host public-access television in Denver and winning the job of running Channels 57, 58 and 59. To do so, they formed Denver Open Media.

Now Shawcross spends his days doing what he loves: figuring out ways to get more people involved in creating their own stories. He hopes to have a website rolled out within the month so that users can submit their own content, rent studio time, borrow equipment and take classes on how to produce, interact and build an informed, thoughtful community through public-access television.

"Looking at organizations like Wikipedia or even MySpace and YouTube, we realized they all started with teeny little staffs like ours," Shawcross says. "And the model that allowed them to have an impact was the decentralized, user-driven model. We realized that the biggest impact was not to just do stuff internally, but to involve the community as much as possible."



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