If you're a real Denver old-timer, you might remember the Third Eye, a brave little independent theater that operated out of a second-floor loft at Second and Broadway by local theater pioneers Joey and June Favre. It was a funky little space with black walls, plush red chairs pirated from a demolished movie theater and little pretense that was known for its challenging late '60s, early '70s fare and actually paid its cast and crew. But that was then and this is now: Second-floor theater will return to Denver's Great White Way at the end of April, when SparkStudio opens in the circa-1891 Imperial Building at 240 South Broadway, also home to the ground-floor Bardo Coffee House.
But, though the new brainchild of Michael Emmitt and Becky Palmeri, veterans of the defunct E-Project in Lakewood, SparkStudio and its resident Spark Theater troupe will be serious and even grassroots, don't expect it to be funky. To that end, Emmitt and Palmeri are thinking small and classy.
"We want to take something smaller and more boutique-ish and have it grow, as opposed to having an arts organization that's reliant on funding and traditional seating and programming," explains Spark marketing director Sean Mahoney. "This way, it's tailored to giving artists more room to do a variety of different kinds of shows." What they envision is something with a trendy speakeasy vibe.
One way they'll sd that is by having the cast and audience mingle after the show over cocktails and chitchat less formal than you'd find at a talkback. "We are looking to put theater back in the hands of the people who live in Denver," Mahoney adds. "To give them that and have them give their audience interaction back to us will help everyone become part of the process."
Tickets go on sale March 1 for Spark's first production, Dangerous Liaisons, a play Mahoney notes has captured Emmitt's fascination for years. "It works well with the space," he says. "Michael is doing it in a 1920s Paris, Chanel-era setting, and the space already has a very parlor-like feel to it. It'll be fun to watch it and feel like you're overhearing people's actual conversations." Liaisons opens April 29.
The official first season lineup will also be released on March 1; Mahoney offers this slip of a preview: "We'll be doing some Shakespeare and some original work, and we're toying with some other ideas. Also, we want to let other artists use the space for rehearsals, classes, writing groups...instead of just being our own little secret." The first season, he lets on further, will include mainly works requested in advance by the public, via a promotion on Facebook and Twitter, in hopes of pleasing the crowds.