Colorado First: Watch the stage lights brighten

Barbra Cohn
May/June 2018

When the sun drops behind the Rocky Mountains, the stage lights come up at Colorado mountain theatres, where growing audiences enjoy the comfortable seating in both renovated and newly built theatres. And not all the fun is on stage; the drama of each performing company’s founding is equally entertaining.

The Editors of EnCompass offer three select destinations from around the state.

Lake Dillon Theatre Company

460 Blue River Pkwy., Silverthorne, 970-513-1151

Inside the new, $9 million Lake Dillon Theatre, you won’t hear the honking of New York City taxi drivers, but the company’s actors are as good as those in the big city, which makes sense since 90 percent of them hail from New York.

New York actress Kenya Hamilton, for example, played “The Psychic” in Ghost, the musical I saw in Silverthorne last summer.

 “Going to work every day to a theatre with a river running behind it is something you won’t find in New York,” Hamilton said. “I loved taking my lunch break on the grass next to the Blue River.”

The new building is a step up from the theater company’s previous home—the 1899 Dillon Town Hall. Theatre-goers now enjoy three intimate black box theatres, an orchestral pit, and a glass-enclosed, spacious lobby with a bar. Among the most rewarding activities is the pre-show discussion, so be seated early—after a glass of wine in the theatre’s lobby, or a homemade ice cream cone from Higgles Ice Cream truck in the lot east of the theatre.

2018 Season

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey June 8–24

Rock of Ages June 15–July 15

Topdog/Underdog July 13–29

The Underpants Aug. 3–Sept. 2

Mr. Joy Aug. 17–Sept. 2

I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers Sept. 7–23

Constellations Nov. 23–Dec. 16

Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre

800 Grand Ave., Grand Lake, 970-627-3421

This prestigious theatre began in 1967 as a community of 20 living in a one-bathroom house with the founding family—David and Audrey Thompson and their six children. In 2011, the theatre moved into its new home—a $5.2 million, 300-seat theatre whose 1800s National Park exterior matches the town’s heartwood pine boardwalk. The investment paid off. Every February, more than 1,200 actors audition in New York, Denver, Memphis, Chicago, and Grand Lake for 20 positions to become a member of the company.

“This theatre company is operating at a higher level than most summer stock theatres,” said Suzanna Champion, who grew up in Denver, and spent four summers with the company. “We are always treated with respect and given great opportunities. It will always be a special place for me.”

Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, and then dine at the AAA Two Diamond-rated Historic Rapids Restaurant. The log structure, built in 1903, was the first in town to have electricity and running water.

2018 Season

Annie June 8–Aug. 24

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder June 15–Aug. 23

The Full Monty June 29–Aug. 25

Pump Boys and Dinettes Aug. 25–Sept. 29

Creede Repertory Theatre

124 N. Main St., Creede, 719-658-2540

Can a summer theatre revive a town’s economy? That’s what Creede’s Jaycees wanted to know in 1966, when they sent letters to university theatre departments asking for help in starting a program at 9,000 feet. The only response came from Steve Grossman, 19, a student at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

That spring, Grossman recruited a dozen students to live rent-free along the headwaters of the Rio Grande and stage one new play each week for five weeks. Admission was $1 per seat in the Historic Creede Opera House, built in the 1930s and renovated on a budget of just $32. The lighting was dim, the sets crude, but with no radio or TV at the time, the theatre company became an instant hit.

Now a nationally acclaimed company, the theatre produces seven to 10 plays in rotating repertory.

“It’s very powerful for an audience to see an actor in a raucous comedy one night and a heart-wrenching drama the next,” said Jessica Jackson, artistic director. “It emphasizes what I most love about repertory theatre. Humans can’t be reduced to one identity. We are complex with many shades.”

Veteran actor Logan Ernstthal first performed in the theatre in 1993 and moved to Creede four years ago. He loves the same things about Creede that visitors say they enjoy.

“You can hike, raft, kayak in the day,” Ernstthal said, “and experience theatre in the evening.”

Before the show, pick up a $3 map for the 17-mile self-guided Bachelor Loop drive at the Visitor’s Center (904 S. Main St., 800-327-2102). Here you’ll find information about rock hounding for opal, amethyst, quartz and agate geodes, fishing in the headwaters of the Rio Grande, and more.

2018 Season

Barefoot in the Park May 25–Aug. 9

The Wizard of Oz June 8–Aug. 26

Boomtown Season 12 June 23–Sept. 8

9 to 5 June 29–Aug. 5

The KID SHOW July 12–14

Miss Holmes July 27–Sept. 15

Guadalupe in the Guest Room Aug. 17–Sept. 14

Barbra Cohn is also a theatre lover who grew up outside of New York City, where she attended dozens of musicals and plays (on Broadway and local productions) and enjoyed her role of “stage mom” during her daughter’s time as an actress.

Barbra Cohn is based in Boulder and is a regular contributor to EnCompass.