This post is an update to the ArtsFwd Innovation Story about the Denver Center Theatre Company’s new programming initiative Off-Center @ The Jones. Thanks to Amy Allison, Charlie Miller, and Emily Tarquin for taking the time to let ArtsFwd readers know how their story is continuing to unfold.
As of February 14th, we were halfway through our first season of Off-Center @ The Jones. We kicked off with a Season Release Party that featured live trailers of all of our productions, free beer from our sponsor Molson-Coors, and drag queen host Shirley Delta Blow. Since then, we have produced five installments of our monthly show CULT FOLLOWING – a live 3-D movie where 6 recurring actors improv their way through movie moments suggested by the audience, and THE L&J&J PROJECT – a party in honor of blogger Lawrence Dai’s 365th consecutive viewing of Julie & Julia. Coming soon are the remaining three CULT FOLLOWING shows, as well as SQUARE OF ICE, a Johnny Cash remix, and the world premiere of DATE*, a digitally enhanced one woman play featuring real stories about Internet dating.
If you’ve seen our ArtsFwd profile, you know that we use a Recipe to guide everything we do at Off-Center. Developed and refined through the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts, the Recipe is comprised of 5 ingredients: Immersive, Connective, Inventive, Convergent, and Now. We have found that the Recipe works best when it is applied to everything we do, on stage and off: from show content to marketing, from the artistic process to the design of the bathrooms.
As we continue to grow Off-Center, we are focused on three main challenges:
- Insufficient human resources – A small group of people can only do so much. The four lead staff of Off-Center are also full time employees of the Denver Center Theatre Company-meaning that we all have “day jobs” in addition to what we do at Off-Center.
- Defining and evaluating success – traditional metrics and measures of success don’t always apply to the kind of out-there stuff we’re creating in Off-Center. We are working to define what success looks like in 3-5 years and how we can measure that, using both proven techniques and new evaluation tools.
- Integration with independence – right now, Off-Center often feels separate from the rest of the Denver Center organization. In order to succeed in the longer term, we need to be better integrated into the larger organizational structure, sharing resources and mutually benefitting each other. However, this cannot happen at the expense of Off-Center’s unique brand.
Fortunately, we have the enthusiastic support of the DPCA’s executive management and trustees and we were lucky to receive a Continuing Innovation grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which will help fund our various responses to the challenges we face. Our first step in this process has been to hire facilitator John McCann to help us develop a strategic plan, or “Recipe for Endurance,” as we’re calling it, for the next 3 years. As we develop this new plan, we are defining what success means for Off-Center and have focused on two main goals:
- To be a new entry point to the organization for next generation of artists and audiences
- To serve as a test kitchen for all departments in the organization to prototype new ideas in a low-risk environment and then apply the learning to our larger scale work. In this respect, Off-Center is our own innovation lab within the DCTC, it is a new research and development wing of our organization
So, we’re moving forward on many different fronts – our current season, planning our next season, and working on the big picture of Off-Center’s place in the larger organization. It’s a tireless effort, but a lot of fun to see what was just an idea a year ago being fully realized. And, we’ve recently encountered an unexpected problem – packed houses. We didn’t think we could sell out our 200-seat venue in the first season, but now we have to add seats to the theatre and consider how much the number of performances and events can expand next season. That’s a great problem to have!
To learn more about the story of Off-Center @ the Jones, watch the full innovation story here
Amy Allison, Associate Managing Director for the Denver Center Theatre Company and Conductor for Off-Center. Amy is finishing her fifth season with the DCTC Business Department, the office responsible for the financial and administrative operations for the Company including negotiating with actors, directors and designers, revenue and expense forecasting and budgeting, payroll processing, and union compliance. As Conductor, Amy is responsible for negotiating and drafting all artistic and production contracts as well as preparing budgets and revenue forecasts.