Denver’s obsession with the immersive arts started with the early 2018 announcement that Meow Wolf was building a Denver version of the Santa Fe sensation...and this city has yet to emerge from its obsession. While Meow Wolf Denver slowly rises above the juncture of the Colfax viaduct and Interstate 25, other immersive events have wowed the town. Natura Obscura proved so popular that the immersive-art installation at the Museum of Outdoor Arts’ indoor space at the Englewood Civic Center was extended through September 29; The Last Defender, the live-action game imported from Chicago by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, has been extended until September. And Meow Wolf, which has already partnered on several local projects, will be at the Denver Zoo on Thursday, August 8, for Zooscovery Maker Day, with family programming followed by a screening of Meow Wolf: Origin Story.
To take stock of all the recent action, on August 15 the 2019 Denver Immersive Retrospectacle will celebrate the past, present and future of immersive art and entertainment in the region. Hosted by the Denver Immersive Summit and the DCPA’s Off-Center, the event is a followup to last November’s sold-out, inaugural Denver Immersive Summit. “Here's a secret," says University of Colorado Denver professor David Thomas, who co-chaired that event with UCD’s Jenny Filipetti. "The first summit was such a big hit, we were sort of shocked and surprised. It was such a hit that we got really excited."
While the first summit was sold out, full of panels and events, they realized that although spring might be a better time for a second edition, eighteen months might be too long for the group to remain inactive. So in the meantime, Thomas notes, "we’re using the Retrospectacle to see if there’s as much interest in a big one in the spring.”
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The Retrospectacle won't exactly be small, though: Jaakko Stenros, a Finnish game researcher and scholar, will offer the keynote, talking about Nordic live-action role playing (LARP), which pushes the boundaries of immersive form and content. (Stenros will also be part of an MCA/Off-Center Mixed Taste pairing the night before.) Before and after the Retrospectacle, makers, producers, performers and patrons will have a chance to mingle and network, and they’ll all receive a copy of the Denver Immersive Summit Yearbook, which catalogues the area’s creatives (submit a listing...fast...to tinyurl.com/immersiveyearbook).
Who qualifies? "The trick is, not everybody knows what immersive is," explains Thomas. "It's still a little bit fuzzy to know what's in, what's out. Some of this is why we keep holding these events, to think about it, to problem solve." He ticks off some of the big immersive hits of the last year: Natura Obscura, The Last Defender, Broken Bone Bathtub, the Off-Center's immersive event at the Denver Public Library, events by the Catamounts, the ongoing success of puzzle rooms, and Meow Wolf's Kaleideoscape collaboration with Elitch Gardens.
"There's so much going on, and the spirit of immersion is very attractive," he adds. "But there's not a single community. We're missing lots and lots of people."
They're all invited to the Retrospectacle, set for 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, August 15, in the Seawell Ballroom in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. General admission tickets are $25 and student tickets are $10; get them and more information at denvercenter.org/tickets-events/denver-immersive-retrospectacle.