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Lia Bonfilio and Ryan Wuestewald in rehearsal for "Sweet & Lucky" —Photo by Adams Visual Communications

Sweet & Lucky Is a Theater Experience Like No Other

In DCPA's unique, immersive theater event, the audience becomes part of the story. 

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It’s rare for theatergoers to be able to experience performances up close, but if you’ve been lucky enough to score prime seats to a show or two, you know that there’s something special about being able to see every wrinkle of a brow and every small movement performed on stage.

For Denver’s latest production, every audience member has a front-row seat: Sweet & Lucky is an immersive experience in which the audience accompanies the performers through space (in this case, a transformed, previously empty 16,000-square-foot RiNo warehouse) in a theater-meets-movement exploration of memory and how each fragment makes up the sum of life.

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Audiences will enter the Sweet & Lucky antique store—outfitted with incredible detail by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts‘ props team—before being swept into a series of vignettes. You might enter a small drive-in movie theater where you can watch a short film from the blanket-filled bed of a truck. Or you might help make a recipe in the kitchen of a house. Or rifle through the drawers of a room. Or, perhaps, you’ll need to pop open your (provided) umbrella as rain begins to fall during an “outdoor” scene. This will be an evening filled with the unexpected—a 360-degree, multisensory theater experience.

More than a year ago, Off-Center, a subset of the DCPA, commissioned New York’s Third Rail Projects to create the work. A Kickstarter campaign earlier this year to “fully realize” the project raised more than $40,000—the goal was $16,000. “We’re interested in presenting works in nontraditional contexts, in public spaces,” says Zach Morris, a Denver native, one of Third Rail’s artistic directors, and Sweet & Lucky’s lead director. “As traditional theater is to a novel, our work is to a poem.”

Morris knew returning to Denver to craft a new project would be steeped in memories. (He was once an intern in the DCPA’s costume shop.) Thus, the foundation for Sweet & Lucky was born out of questions about what we remember and forget over the course of a lifetime. What are, Morris wondered, the “relics and rubble that two people in love might leave behind?”

If you attend Sweet & Lucky with a companion, you likely won’t see the exact same show, as you move through rooms in a different order. Here, the audience becomes part of the story. Take note: That doesn’t mean you will be pulled “on stage” or forced to be part of the show; it’s more that your presence is necessary for the narrative to unfold—and you can participate if invited. “You’re moving through a series of dreamlike encounters,” Morris says. “From the succession, you weave together something that’s hopefully resonant in your life.” The show is about two hours long (no intermission), and cocktails crafted by Sean Kenyon of Williams & Graham will be available for purchase before and after.

What Third Rail and the DCPA have created here is theater without a stage, as an encounter. As Morris told me, there are no edges to what Third Rail does—rather, the audience experiences the story as their own. Which, if you ask me, sounds like a much better evening than being stuck in a seat for two hours—front row or not.

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Details: Sweet & Lucky runs May 17 through June 25; tickets start at $45. The show is for ages 21 and older, and an on-site bar opens 45 minutes before showtime; two alcohol-free performances (June 1 and 8) are open to patrons 18 and older. You will be walking or standing for the duration of the show, so wear comfortable shoes (and ones that can get a little wet). Purses and backpacks are not permitted. Free parking is available in a nearby parking lot; there will be signs directing you to the area. 

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