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sweet and lucky 2
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
To say that life is sweet and we are lucky is a sentiment reserved for the days spent looking backward. Rare are the moments spent fully present, when the experience and appreciation collide. This summer, in a 16,000 square feet warehouse in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood, a confluence of elements comes together to create a unique experience where life comes alive and the past is fully present. Presented by DCPA Off Center in collaboration with Third Rail Projects, Sweet & Lucky is a theatrical time ballet exploring the nature of love, memory and the objects that connect us to both. Lush, romantic, universal, metaphoric and delightful― there is magic happening here and you feel it.

Describing the event without giving too much away- not in plot spoilers, but careful not to interfere- is tricky for this is immersion theatre. Rather than the traditional sitting-in-the-dark-watching-actors-tell-the-story or the interactive style of Tony & Tina’s Wedding, Sweet & Lucky invites you into its world, takes your hand and guides you through it, while leaving space for the sound of your soul to fill the silence.

It is a story of love through decades and the moments that ultimately define us. My first venture into Sweet & Lucky took me on a deeply personal journey as touchstones of the central relationship reveal the heartaches, kisses, treasures and gratitude that make a life. Audience members are allowed to snoop around in the lovers’ psyches; reading letters, guessing outcomes, drinking in the ambiance a taste of the Sweet & Lucky cocktail created by Williams & Graham mixologist, Sean Kenyon.

Everyone starts together in the huge warehouse space, culled into smaller groups, and moved room-to-room as the twelve performer piece unfolds. Each room is its own environment, designed to evoke engagement through the senses with exquisite visuals, tasks, scents and “audio texture”, contributing to a deeply moving and dream-like evening, bearing witness to the core of the story and finding resonance in your own.

Given the opportunity to return, I took my son, August Witherspoon, curious to see how the evening would play in his open, twenty-two-year-old heart and compared notes over a cocktail in the post-show speakeasy. A few questions led us to the realization that we’d each tracked a different cast-

So we saw different actors playing the same story? I like that, and how you were left to fill in the blanks in what happened; we got different views of the same play. I love how as you’re taken from scene to scene, you start to notice trending objects; symbols and motifs become apparent the further along into the story you progress and wrap around again. Like how every sense is pleasantly utilized, from smelling the chamomile and lavender to the taste of the same herbs in the cocktail. I felt these things starting to have an effect on me― they were not only connecting the story together but they started connecting me to my own memories. You’re watching this story, putting together the pieces and becoming introspective into your own memories of loved ones. That’s never happened to me at the theatre. I realized how many memories I’ve made in my short time on this Earth, many of which I hadn’t thought of since the events themselves. It really makes you wonder what creates a memory, and how the more memories you make with someone, the closer you become with them. I guess that’s why they seem to never dissipate.

How true my son. We’re just spinning around on a rock amid the stars, without reason, making all the memories we can. Sweet.

SWEET & LUCKY is produced by DCPA’s Off Center, a commission of Brooklyn-based Third Rail Projects. Running through August 7 (at which time it must close) tickets are limited, non-transferable, and available at 303.893.4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org

rsz_futura_photo_title_and_anne_only_[44058093]When Boulder theater artist, Amanda Berg Wilson returned to Denver from a decade long explore of Chicago what she found here was a lot of great theater. What she craved, was great theater with a Chi-town influence. “There was so much being done in Chicago while I was there, so much of it was unlike anything I’d seen before; exciting voices from playwrights telling multi-disciplinary, non-realistic stories that were offbeat and very theatrical.” That was then. Now in its fifth season, Co-Founder/Artistic Director, Amanda Berg Wilson and the cadre of artists who constitute The Catamounts, continue to surprise and engage like no one else in Denver theater. Drawn to the non-linear tale, this “Theater for an Adventurous Palate” has built a repertoire of edgy experiences for a loyal Denver/Boulder audience that is welcoming of the group’s esoteric, contemporary focus. And they FEED you.
I sat down with some Catamounts and began a chat about the upcoming production of Jordan Harrison’s play, Futura, with a slight detour diving deep into the differences between experimental theatre and performance art and the evolution of the avant-garde movement. “The concept of pushing the boundaries of theatrical convention isn’t new, of course, it just keeps changing” says Amanda. “Where we fit into this as a company is that rather than looking for stories that alienate, we’re looking for stories with a point of entry, for narratives that refine and defy convention while engaging our audience.” So far, so good.
Futura is the season’s second full-length offering; a dystopian allegory written by Jordan Harrison, directed by company member Meridith Grundei. A 2015 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for his play Marjorie Prime, Harrison takes us to the not so distant future where the printed word is illegal. Harrison’s obsession with fonts led him to an exploration of the art of pen-to-paper and the extinction of the printed word in a digitized age where online libraries, e-readers and the rapidly shrinking newspaper industry are the polar ice caps of a font-fetishist’s nightmare. Melancholy for a pre-e world and the collateral damage of the Information Age is a now a font of inspiration for millennial writers. Playwright Annie Baker mourned the loss of film to digital in The Flick, and though Harrison is currently on the writing team for the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, his theatrical forays continue to pay off.
I ask Ms. Grundei, to tell me about Futura and a world where the printed word cannot be written or even read. “It takes place in 2021, so not that far off, when the written word is virtually dead. On her first day back on the job after her husband’s gone missing, a University professor launches into a passionate rant about history, relevance and importance typography and the detrimental effects of the techno world on the human brain. Then she gets kidnapped.”
We continue into the topics explored on the play’s dark side: the ominous Big Brother, capricious Wikipedia and manipulation of information controlled by a select few. “It’s interesting because rather than being a manipulative polemic, we ask at what cost? Futura is a brilliantly written and thought-provoking play about the physical loss of the written page, our privacy in this growing technological world, and the beauty and sadness around the loss of something so simple as an ink smudge.” Says the eloquent Ms. Grundei. “A life without texture” say I. The Catamounts Executive Producer, McPherson Horle, adds, “The largess of Jordan Harrison’s ideas about government intrusion and the power of the written word would be gift enough, but the humor, grace and humanity that pervade this piece are truly remarkable. This is a hopeful story about the importance of human connection, and the art that flows as a result.”
Now tell me about the FEED. Berg Wilson picks up, “FEED is a multi-course, seated dinner where each course pairs a dish, a drink, and a performance piece. All courses revolve around a central theme, and live music weaves the whole evening together.” Go on… “We choose a theme, FEED: Fire, FEED: Illuminate” says Horle. “Then we create a palate of handcrafted food and a specialty drink inspired by that theme. We encourage people to experience the chef’s pairings and the performance- dance, music, literature- each element enhances and compliments the other. It’s truly magical.” I ask MacPherson Horle how that came to be. “Well, first off, we’re foodies. Foodies with an MFA.”
Sounds good to me!

Futura opens April 2 at the Nomad Theater in Boulder and runs through the 16th. Click here for tickets, schedule and special performance events.