Back in 2009, Denver School of the Arts student Quinn Marchman and a group of friends decided to take the lead and create an original production for the school’s annual Black History Month production. Together they wrote, directed, produced and acted in a play about a fictional character named Barry, which was based on President Barack Obama’s early days in the ’80s as a community organizer. That was the beginning of the Black Actors Guild.
“We were sneaking out of class and staying late after school trying to create the script, direct it and run it; it was a monumental undertaking, especially for second-semester junior-year students,” remembers Marchman. “We thought, well, we don’t know if we can do it, but we’re going to see if we can make it happen. Once you are able to do the impossible, it is really hard to say that you can’t do it again.”
The idea of doing the impossible is what kept pushing the group. Even after they graduated from DSA in 2010 and moved on to college theater programs, the creative collaborators came back together during that first winter break of freshman year. Within a week, they’d written a new play and used their own money to rent out The Source at Su Teatro, then known as Shadow Theatre.
For Marchman, his first year in college studying theater felt like relearning how to audition; it was something he already knew how to do well. Some of his friends from DSA were having similar feelings about post-high-school life and collectively left college to return to Denver, where they eventually found themselves in a basement in Montbello, working madly on another script.
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The next Black Actors Guild show came to fruition quickly, this time at Crossroads Theatre. While it didn’t quite produce a packed house, the company definitely considered it a success. “Though we didn’t come close to selling out, when it’s your first show and there are people in there laughing at you, it feels like you’re at Carnegie Hall,” says Marchman of that one-night performance.
Though the Black Actors Guild has grown and changed over the years, it’s still an extremely tight group of creators who range in age from 17 to 25. Marchman serves as Artistic Director and works alongside Director of Operations and Education Ryan Foo, Production Manager Corin Chavez, Senior Producer Nick Thorne and Technical Director Anastazia Coney. They all work with younger students and collaborate to create weekly improv nights, variety shows, music-oriented events and longer-term, full-on theatrical productions — “doin’ the most,” as the Black Actors Guild motto urges.
“The feeling of being on stage and having the audience react to you is still one of the best highs in the world — and we’ve been chasing it ever since,” says Marchman.
Catch the Black Actors Guild "Show Ya Teef" improv performance at 8 p.m. any Tuesday at the Atlas Theatre, 1400 Williams Street; there’s also a Free First Friday Music Showcase every month. And starting March 1, the group will host Soul Food Stand Up every Sunday at the Savoy at Curtis Park, 2700 Arapahoe Street. For more information, find the Black Actors Guild on Facebook.