For more than 15 months, the Denver Center for Performing Arts has been mostly dark, with theaters closed to large in-person audiences. But behind the scenes local artists Jessica Hindsley and Kenny Moten have been expanding what it means to experience theater, with the help of DCPA Off Center.
“Powered by Off Center gave us that opportunity, asking for projects that were something new, maybe virtual, maybe in-person, but that were all very safe for the pandemic,” Hindsley said.
Two new projects were chosen from more than 80 submissions. Hindsley and Moten’s submission, The Bright Lights of Denver, is a fictional true-crime podcast.
“The true crime genre is huge. I spent a lot of time in the pandemic listening to a lot of (true crime podcasts), which I think is kind of how this idea grew out of this for both of us,” Moten said.
The four-part podcast tells the story of a journalist who comes back to his hometown of Denver and ends up investigating the disappearance of a friend. The characters have real social media pages to supplement the story, and real locations are mentioned throughout the podcast. But the creators want to remind everyone: This is all fiction.
“No one has actually gone missing. They are safe and sound,” Moten said.
Even though it’s a fake crime, Moten and Hindsley wanted to invite the audience to get involved in the mystery. Each episode highlights three Denver locations, and those locations will have QR codes outside them that provide additional clues.
The scavenger hunt element also helps make Denver a central character in the story. The creators wanted to explore real issues facing Denver, like growth and gentrification.
“While it's amazing to grow and experience these new things and these new buildings coming into the city, it's also important to remember where we came from, and you’ll see that come back as a theme,” Hindsley said.
New episodes of The Bright Lights of Denver will drop on every Tuesday in June and will be available for free throughout the year on Spotify. The QR codes will be available through the summer. There are also two Zoom Q&A sessions where listeners can meet the cast and share fan theories on Saturday, June 19th and Wednesday, June 30.
Listen to the podcast for free here.