In many cases listening to a podcast is a passive activity — something people listen to while exercising, sitting in the car or doing chores around the house.
But “The Bright Lights of Denver,” a new podcast sponsored by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Powered By Off-Center program, is a show that gets the listener involved.
“The Bright Lights of Denver” tells the fictional story of aspiring novelist-turned-journalist Ryan Streeter, who starts out studying the history of the Mile-High City and suddenly finds himself investigating the sudden disappearance of a friend.
Created by Kenny Moten and Jessica Hindsley, the four-episode series will make its fully-produced world premiere in June. The project is one of two selected out of 39 entries by the Powered By Off-Center program. The other is “Don Quixote de Auraria,” created by James Lopez, Jenny Filipetti, James Brunt and Thomas Vincent in collaboration with Gregorio Alcaro. It has been optioned for future development.
Launched in 2018, Powered By Off-Center is a residency program for local artists that culminated in two fully-supported workshops at the DCPA, said Charlie Miller, Off-Center’s curator. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was adapted to propose safe theatrical experiences that could be fully produced at the DCPA in June.
“The goal has been to inspire new ideas, build new creative partnerships and contribute to Colorado’s local artistic ecology,” Miller added.
Among the requirements for this year’s entries into the program were to be theatrical at its core, put the audience at the center of the story and be able to run for at least a month and accommodate at least 1,000 audience members through the run.
“Of all the projects proposed, ‘The Bright Lights of Denver’ best met all our selection criteria,” Miller said. “It tells a compelling story and explores issues very relevant to Denver today. And it provides exciting opportunities for the audience to get out into the world and engage with the characters and the story.”
Audiences don’t just listen — they can interact with the characters through their Instagram accounts and connect with other fans of the show on the Bright Lights Facebook group. There will also be two Zoom question and answer sessions with the main characters, and QR codes will be placed around the city on the ground outside every key location that the characters visit in the podcast. Scanning these QR codes with your phone unlocks additional parts of the story that help solve the mystery, according to Miller.
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“`The Bright Lights of Denver’ is a great story and an intriguing mystery. But it is also much more than that,” said Miller. “Real interviews with city officials and local experts are woven through the episodes as the main character explores serious issues confronting Denver — the growth of the city, the lack of affordable housing and gentrification.”
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