Now Showing: Chip Walton and Brian Freeland
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 independent-theater artistic directors Chip Walton and Brian Freeland.
A scene from the LIDA Project's summer production "Watershed."
Chip Walton, producing artistic director, Curious Theatre Company.
With help from a dedicated board and band of actors, Chip Walton has fashioned Curious Theatre Company into one of the most visceral stages in town by always looking forward and following national trends in theater and the best new works from across the country. His productions aim to stick with audiences long after they've left the building.
What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?
I've been encouraged over the past several years to see the arrival of so many new theater companies. I think that is indicative of a healthy cultural community that encourages the initiative and innovation of a younger generation of artists. I also think that there's been a groundswell of support for the development and production of new work, and that makes me very happy, as well.
What could be done to improve the scene?
I'm always amazed at the local talent in our theatre community, but I am also equally amazed at how many of those talented artists end up not staying in our community, to build their career. And I think a lot of that has to do with producing organizations stepping up to the plate to pay their artists a wage that makes their decision to stay in Denver an easier one. I wish that we could pay a lot more to artists at Curious, but I hope that we pay enough to help a local artist piece together a living over the course of a season. I've always thought about a cultural community like an ecological community: There has to be all levels of the food chain intact for that community to survive in balance. And I think the Denver theater community desperately needs a few more mid-sized organizations to attract artists here and help them stay here.
Who/what has inspired you most in your career?
I've been incredibly fortunate to have had several instrumental mentors in my life, who have shaped my artistic vision and professional career. But with his recent passing, I was reminded of someone who is likely the reason that I ever started Curious in 1999, and his name is Herbert Blau. Blau wrote The Impossible Theatre in 1964, and that manifesto, more than anything else in my life, brought me to the point that I am today.
Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?
I'm certainly excited about the bevy of world premieres at the Denver Center this upcoming season -- especially by such exciting writers as Marcus Gardley and Matthew Lopez. And I also have this sense that based on the last several seasons, good work (wherever it is produced) has been appropriately rewarded by big and discriminating audiences. I hope that is a trend that continues, and I will certainly be watching that throughout this next season.
Find more information about Chip Walton and the Curious Theatre Company online.
Continue reading for our interview with Brian Freeland.