Now Showing: Kent Thompson and Emily Tarquin

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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 two movers at the Denver Center Theatre Company, Kent Thompson and Emily Tarquin.

See also: Now Showing: Nancy Smith and Patrick Mueller

Kent Thompson, artistic director, Denver Center Theatre Company.

Kent Thompson is the face behind the Denver Center Theatre Company, the man who chooses and oversees every work that hits the stage at Denver's premier mainstream theater venue.

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

We're seeing a generational change in leadership across American theater, but also a bigger change. Audiences today want more than a Field of Dreams model (if we build it -- and make it a good show -- they will come). The live performance is still the "animating event," but people want more -- connecting to the show before, during the event. They want an evening out with other people like them.  And audiences love the live connection with performers, but they want it to be a special evening, too. 

What could be done to improve the scene?

Every theater in Colorado is trying new angles of marketing to different audiences (young adults, cultural or racially diverse audiences). That's great, but we have to change the conversation we have with audiences -- and even scarier, our programming has to reflect the audiences we want. For Denver and Colorado, we're asking our audiences not just to "witness" our performances and go home, but to talk, talk, talk.

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

Performances that are magical: when the audience start breathing literally together, when you could hear a pin drop, and we're all caught up in a moment we will never forget -- be it Atticus Finch's despair over the unjust verdict in To Kill A Mockingbird, to Othello's tragic recognition that he has killed Desdemona without cause, that he has destroyed the love of his life, to -- trust me -- the straight guy discovering his inner genius...as a drag queen. Coming soon.

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

Continue to be inspired by Wonderbound's reinvention of dance -- and finally, they have a Denver home!  BETC's SantaLand Diaries with the hilarious Matt Zambrano, Amy Herzog's After the Revolution at Curious, and more...

Learn more about the DCTC's new season online.

Continue reading for our interview with Emily Tarquin. Emily Tarquin, artistic associate at Denver Center Theatre Company, and co-curator of Off-Center@The Jones

Emily Tarquin also works for the DCTC, exercising her eye for the new and the offbeat as an artistic associate. But she really turns up her flame under Off-Center@The Jones, a side trip aimed at attracting young audiences to a new, fun kind of improvisational theater that not only allows coughing during the show, but also guffawing, beer-drinking and shouting.

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

I think theaters are trying a lot of new approaches and the scene is pretty exciting right now. We are looking to engage audiences before, during and after/inside and outside of the theater. We want to expand our work beyond what's happening onstage to create a more complete experience from start to finish, and one that doesn't end the minute you walk out of our doors.

What could be done to improve the scene?

For me, the art of theater is in the shared experience. The moment when what's happening on stage and off stage join in perfect harmony and everyone -- from the performers to the audience to the stagehands to the ushers -- leaves feeling alive. I'd take a spilled drink or a candy being unwrapped over someone falling asleep or not connecting with the work any day.

We have to break some conventions and make way for new practices. We need to renew our focus on the audience experience and work across departments to unify the artistic, marketing, development and production goals; working to develop a shared vision so that we can authentically connect audiences to it. In addition, we need the time, money and space to experiment, fail and learn.

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

Audiences. When I go to a show, I watch the audience and how they react.

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

I will be watching for theaters to take back their place as cultural and social hubs -- lively places where people want to go. I will look for more diverse audiences. I will listen and look for bigger reactions. I would love to measure how loud it gets, how quiet, how many gasps, how many tissues, how often someone grabs the person's hand next to them, how many leave laughing....

Visit Off-Center@The Jones online for season information.

Come back to Show and Tell tomorrow for our interviews with Curious Theatre's Chip Walton and Brian Freeland of the Lida Project.

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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