The 5280 Fall Arts and Entertainment Guide

A closer look at some of the most innovative artistic minds in the Front Range.

November 2009

Ramblin' Man

The peripatetic artistic director Kent Thompson finds a home in Denver.

Artists roam. They go where inspiration, impulse—and, of course, job openings—steer them. This fall, Kent Thompson begins his fifth year as artistic director of the Denver Center Theater Company, following 16 years at the renowned Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Before settling here, he roamed, teaching theater at Juilliard and Boston University, and working in, among many other places, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Canada, and England.

Under Thompson, the DCTC is developing a national reputation, particularly for works written by nontraditional playwrights. Thompson established the Women's Voices Fund, an endowment that commissions new plays by women. "In the 26 years before I got here, [the company] had presented about 250 plays, only seven written by women," Thompson says. Today, among the top 10 to 15 plays produced nationally each year, about 40 percent are written by women, a much higher rate than a few decades ago. "Women are writing plays that men can't and don't write," he says. "These aren't just 'chick flick' kind of plays. Their imaginations, issues, stories, and voices are different, so it's an interesting time for women in theater."

The DCTC applies the same principle to recruiting more African-American and Latino-written plays, primarily via its annual New Play Summit. Two of this season's highlights will be Well, by Lisa Kron, a funny, touching look at a mother-daughter relationship tested by the mother's ill health, and When Tang Met Laika, by Rogelio Martinez, a fanciful love story set amid the Cold War.

For Thompson, plays like these, and the DCTC's varied lineup speak to local audiences in their own language. "Our shows often look at what it means to be an American in an increasingly global world. We want there to be a regional aspect to it," he says. "I think our perspective on America and the world from the base of the Rocky Mountains is just different and unique, and I want the plays to reflect that."

For a complete listing of this season's performances and ticket options, go to www.denvercenter.org.