| AspenTimes.com

Thunder River Theatre Co. is creating new bridges with last production of the season

When Thunder River Theatre Co. executive artistic director Corey Simpson selected “Tribes” as their final production for the season, he had no idea how much it would change him.

“I have to admit, I didn’t take all of the intricacies of this piece into account when I selected it,” said Simpson, who is directing the production. “In part, that was based on me not having experience with the deaf or hard-of-hearing community before.”

Written by playwright Nina Raine, “Tribes” tells the story of a Jewish family of five — a mom, dad and three children.

The play follows the family as they assimilate the youngest child Billy, who is deaf, into the hearing culture as much as possible.

When she meets a young love interest who is going deaf with two deaf parents and they proceed to teach Billy to sign, the universe opens up to her.

“I fell in love with the piece. It is a beautiful, funny, incredible and heartfelt piece, with a lot of things about it that I was looking for in filling the season,” Simpson said.

For Simpson, the research for this project was really interesting. He searched for deaf theaters in Colorado and located an artistic director in Denver.

“I picked up my phone, and I was halfway through dialing it when I realized I was calling someone who is deaf, and had no idea how that process would work,” Simpson said.

“It was not even part of my reality until then. That was the first experience I had where I knew all of us working on this piece were about to have a really eye-opening experience.”

One thing Simpson realized quickly was the lack of resources on the Western Slope.

He learned that the Aspen Deaf Camp had recently closed, and many of the employees had moved because of the lack of resources.

Through his research, Simpson was able to make contact with Michelle Mary Schaefer, a deaf actor from Austin, Texas, who is playing Billy.

Simpson said he has been in awe of her ability.

“When I first met her, we had never spoken face to face or even on the phone before,” he said. “It had all been over email and texting. I was really nervous when she showed up, because I had no idea what the process was going to be like directing someone who can’t hear me.

“My universe has been completely blown open by working on this piece, and also by working with one of our actors who is deaf,” Simpson said.

“Michelle has just been amazing to work with. She can speak, is fluent in lip reading and sign language, and at the same time some of us in the cast and crew have really worked to learn as much sign as we can.”

Simpson said it has been a lot of fun and created a lot of hilarious moments between the casts, with a lot of laughter in the process.

“This is an incredibly powerful piece, and we have experienced that every night in rehearsal because the actor playing the main character is deaf. What the audience is going to experience is a situation that most of us don’t experience every day,” Simpson said.

Simpson said seeing someone portray this role who has lived through so much of what this character experiences really takes the play to different level and adds another layer of reality and strength to the message.

The cast of six also includes guest actor and former valley resident Brittany Dye, who now lives in New York City, and talented locals William Bledsoe, Meredith Nelson-Daniel, Suzanne Brady and Dana Gaubatz.

After five weeks of rehearsal, “Tribes” takes the stage tonight at 7:30 at Thunder River Theatre Co. in Carbondale.

Thunder River Theatre Co. will be bringing in two ASL-certified interpreters for the final two shows at 7:30 p.m. June 28 and 29.

“I have been changed by this process, I have learned some sign, I’ve made some lifelong friends that I would have never connected with before, and since I started here at TRTC, I have really aspired along with the board, staff and actors to continue to open our doors more to the community. And this kind of play is really about creating new bridges between people that might not otherwise connect,” Simpson said.

“In some ways this play I think is expressing what we’re passionate about trying to do with theater, and sometimes it’s easy for those of us in the arts to forget that art really does have power and really can impact people in ways that change them and I think this play is going to be a great reminder to us about how much theater can do in the world.”


Colorado Mountain College professional photography students showcase work at ArtShare Gallery

It’s not every day a college student receives the honor or opportunity of displaying their own work in a public gallery.

According to Derek Johnston, photography professor and director of the Colorado Mountain College Professional Photography program, “Our students enjoy this real-world experience that goes beyond what they’re taught in the classroom.”

More than a dozen Colorado Mountain College professional photography students are taking part in the annual student show, which opened earlier this week.

The show provides students the experience of exhibiting their work in a public gallery and sharing and discussing their work with others.

“It’s an incredible opportunity. Not a lot of people have access to high-quality printing, paper use and gallery-style exhibition. For a lot of us, it is the first time our work has been printed big and shown to the public,” second-year professional photography student Dustin Gregory said.

“I think it was a very valuable experience to go through the proofing and printing process, to understand what really goes into that. Just to have your work seen and to cross that item off the career list, it’s been a pretty incredible and awesome rewarding experience.”

CMC ArtShare will host an opening reception for “Current Works: Students of the Colorado Mountain College Professional Photography Program” at the CMC ArtShare Gallery 6 to 8 p.m. tonight in Glenwood Springs

“I think it is outstanding. It’s an awesome opportunity at a young age to be able to display my work,” second-year professional photography student Murphy McCoy said.

Students will be on hand to talk about their photography with members of the community during the opening reception at the gallery located on the second floor of Morgridge Commons.


Gregory, who moved to Colorado in 2011 from Norwich, Vermont, fell for photography soon after arriving.

“Through my exploration of the West, as I was living in the Vail area, sort of fell in love with photography and digital media,” Gregory said.

After researching online for photography programs, Gregory said he came across the CMC program, which was essentially right in his backyard.

“Next thing you know, I was a 30-year-old college graduate going back to school for photography and media,” Gregory added.

A quick search online helped Murphy McCoy find the program, as well.

Originally from Parker, McCoy said she fell for photography early on.

“I took my first photography class in high school, and I had a great teacher at the time. I really like graphic design as well,” McCoy said.

“When I visited the school, the equipment and the faculty were outstanding. That’s what drew me here.”

Both Gregory and Murphy describe the CMC professional photography program as challenging and rewarding personally and professionally.

“It’s not the traditional workload of an undergraduate bachelor program, where it is a lot of papers, lot of tests. There are still written assignments and there are still tests just to conform into the Western educational system. Most of the work is hands-on shooting, processing, building, creating media and imagery,” Gregory said.

“You get out of it what you’re willing to put in.”

For McCoy, who started who first began the program two years ago, she left the program briefly to pursue art at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.

“I thought I wanted to pursue art and 3-D mediums, and I realized I was not as excited about it as I was about photography,” McCoy said.

McCoy said she missed the structure of CMC.

“My expectation were higher and they didn’t have the same expectation, I felt like I was neglecting my opportunities and chances to learn,” she added. “I missed the environment that I had at Colorado Mountain College, so I came back to finish my degree here.”

McCoy is happy to be back in the valley and excited for the show and looking forward to showing off her work.

“I love this school, it’s really challenging, but I enjoy that I’m placed in a real-world situation almost every day in class,” McCoy added.

“There’s no slack, they have high expectations for you, so you can always achieve more. There are real deadlines with real professional standards and as soon as you set the bar higher for yourself, they never let you go back.”

The exhibit is free, runs through April 25 and is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.


VOICES Project opens original theater project in Carbondale

For a third year in a row, the VOICES Project has joined together with students from Carbondale and Basalt to create an original theater project to be showcased this weekend.

“We feel that when you bring a diverse group of kids together, a diverse group of teaching artists, and you have different art forms available for self expression, really exciting things happen,” VOICES Executive Artistic Director Renee Prince said.

Adds teaching artist Ryan Prince, “I think the name of the nonprofit really speaks to the mission, providing everyone voices — giving individuals, young or old, the ability to come together in a group and have a safe place to share each others’ voices and feelings.

“We started with the mission to amplify voices through the arts. That includes all art forms.”

With five weeks from the first meeting to the final curtain, 20 high schoolers have been writing scenes and poetry, building puppets, choreographing movement, and composing songs in preparation for the project.

According to the show’s director, Cassidy Willey, “It can be a challenge. It’s exciting to watch students show up for each other through this process — to give them opportunity to create their own words, movement and songs on stage.”

In addition to Willey and Ryan Prince, the team of local teaching artists includes Gabriela Alvarez Espinoza, Vanessa Porras and Madison Coia.

The teaching artists have led the students through workshops to pick a theme and craft an original show.

“Getting together with the students and the teaching artists and just working up the bravery to build something that doesn’t exist, and then putting it out there is really challenging and rewarding to me,” Ryan Prince added.

Renee Prince says it’s a nice counter point to all the screen time that is in the world now.

This year’s project, titled “Void of Darkness, Eat the Light,” explores the transition from childhood to adolescence.

“There is something about this project that we find truly does connect young people. It just really builds their confidence, and their compassion for one another,” Renee added.

“If we can help a kid out of isolation, that is the most important thing we can be doing.”

Students participating in the project cover the gamut of emotions.

First-year participant Tyler Gruel said he found the project freeing and inspiring when he attended a performance last year.

“I think it takes anybody in who feels any kind of connection to it, and lets them say how they feel about. For example, we got to look more into ourselves, and put pieces of ourselves into the project and culminate it into a whole for all of us. It was really cool to see it happen,” Gruel added. “It really opened the door to expression for me, too.”

Said student participant Bianca Godina, “For me all three years of it have been a way to express myself and a way to grow in both my performing and writing.”

“The first year Renee came into the library, she basically told us we were building a play out of nothing, and I was interested,” Godina said. “I showed up that first practice, and that’s how we began the process.”

“It’s been a place to center myself and come back to what I want to do in my writing.”

Second-year participant Daniela Rivera says she was super nervous her first year, but those nerves have settled a bit this year.

“All the stories that we present, we are so vulnerable with ourselves … “99.9 percent of the time the pieces are true, so they are intense, which makes it scary.” Rivera said.

Added Renee Prince, “It’s a group of very brave students, who haven’t found an artistic home in other after school opportunities.

“Our motto is leap and build your wings in the air” — inspired by Ray Bradbury’s famous quote.

“We changed it to be a little more like flying and a little less like falling,” she added.

“The idea is you just have to commit to this process and trust that we are talented, collaborative, strong and brave enough to actually get it done. “When you find yourself flying, you realize how truly powerful you are, and how truly powerful creativity is.”

The curtain will raise for the cast and crew 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Third Street Center in Carbondale for the first of three shows.


Carbondale Clay Center hosts new show by Annette and Andrew Roberts-Gray

Visitors to Carbondale Clay Center will travel through time, as local artists Annette and Andrew Roberts-Gray open their latest collaborative show.

“We are really excited and honored to host this collaborative exhibit by Andrew and Annette Roberts-Gray. The work in this show spans a variety of mediums, including clay, to present a unique and atypical exhibition for the Carbondale Clay Center,” Clay Center Executive Director Angela Bruno said.

The center will officially open the show with a reception from 6-8 p.m. Friday.

The show uses the 1968 pop song “In the Year 2525,” by Zager and Evans, as the theme for presented works in ceramic and painting mediums.

“It was a number one hit, it has a sort of a dystopian, future-like theme to it,” artist Andrew Roberts-Gray said.

Both artists have taught at the Anderson Ranch in Snowmass, and have extensively exhibited their work throughout the valley and beyond.

The narrative elements of the songs are used as suggestions for visual tone, imagery and context for paintings, sculpture and mixed-media work.

“I think people will be really excited from our generations who remember the song,” he added.

The show represents the second collaboration between the couple that have lived in the Roaring Fork Valley since the early 1990s.

“Most of the collaborative work in the show are paintings. We’ve worked together on paper,” Robert-Gray said. “It’s a blend of traditional landscapes and science fiction — what the future may hold technologically.”

The event will include entertainment with Carbondale’s own “Let them Roar” playing live.

The center will also offer refreshments at the reception.

The exhibition will run through Jan. 25 at the Carbondale Clay Center, located at 135 Main St.

“I think people will find that the imagery is very accessible,” he said.

“The ideas are ones that they are familiar with, just presented in a way that will surprise them.”

Dillon Ice Castles to open Friday, Dec. 21

The Dillon Ice Castles will officially open for visits on Friday, Dec. 21. Utah-based Ice Castles, LLC said the popular ice architecture and sculpture attraction is opening a full week earlier than usual.

Dillon is one of six cities across North America to feature the Ice Castles. The Dillon location is the first of the company’s six locations to open for the season due to an early start to construction and a bountiful early winter in Summit.

“We are excited to able to open before Christmas this season,” said Ice Castles CEO Ryan Davis. “Kids will get out of school for the winter break and families will be spending time together. Ice Castles gives people one more way to make incredible winter memories over the holidays.”

The attraction features ice-carved tunnels, fountains, slides, frozen thrones, and cascading towers of ice embedded with color-changing LED lights that twinkle to music at night.

Artisans have spent the last five weeks growing, harvesting, and hand-placing icicles to create the life-size winter playground which brings tens of thousands of people to Dillon each season. The frozen creation in Dillon is made up of 25 million pounds of ice.

The company has other locations in Midway, Utah; Stillwater, Minnesota; North Woodstock, New Hampshire; Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; and Edmonton, Alberta.

Meet Glenwood Springs’ chosen North Landing artist, Madeline Wiener

When Colorado artist Madeline Wiener discovered what she calls “the Stone” up in Marble, her life changed forever.

Now, “the transplant from back East” gets the once-in-lifetime opportunity to plant a piece of her own life’s work in the city formerly known as Defiance.

“I have dedicated my career to creating sculpture for public places — sculpture that is intended to be touched, interacted with, functional — and I came to designing a series of works that I call, ‘Bench People,’” the stone carver who splits her time between Boulder and Marble said in a recent phone interview.

Wiener’s work, which lives in places as near as Montrose and as abroad as Scotland, exhibits a bit of Defiance itself.

“I just felt like it was such a great opportunity to get people to touch the stone and feel the warmth, feel the coolness, feel textures — do all of those things that are taboo when a visitor goes to a museum or a gallery,” Wiener said.

Wiener’s next sculpture work will reside at the place where the former Grand Avenue Bridge once touched down, the city-owned North Landing site.

Thanks to a $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant awarded to Glenwood Springs earlier this year, Wiener was selected as the desired artist to create a sculpture for the open space. And now, the community not only gets the opportunity to meet the artist herself, but additionally give input on her future work at two public art charrettes, taking place from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Monday and again Dec. 5 at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

“Coming home and doing it right in my own backyard, this is more than an honor,” Wiener emphasized. “I could not have dreamed that I would have been the one selected for this particular project.

“Whatever it is that I will be doing, I will be doing it out of a block of Colorado yule marble, which comes from the quarries just round the bend in Marble, Colorado.”

Before sculpting that block of Colorado yule marble, Wiener wants to meet and hear from the community where it will live, for further inspiration.

“I do not know what I am doing yet, and that is where the community gets involved,” Wiener said.

Carving the fine line of gauging what the public wants versus what the sculptor may desire seems like a monumental challenge, especially for an artist. However, Wiener seems an exception to the rule.

“Right off the bat, they will know that I am a stone carver, and they will be acquainted with my work because there will be visuals put up around the room, and they will see other sculptures that have been created in this genre, in this style of my Bench People,” Wiener said of her message to those offering input.

“They will get to know me, but I will also get to know them, and that way I can be thinking about what they might like to see out there,” she said.

Although Wiener’s Bench People sit all over the world, the stone carver stresses the importance of giving each piece that she does its own sense of identity that reflects the world it lives in specifically.

“That is where the people will come in. Do they want to see a child? Do they want to see two children? … I cannot give this away, but I want to do something that leaves an impressionable size and can be seen from a distance,” Wiener added.

“Do they want me to go Native American? There is a huge Hispanic community, so, do they want me to stay in that genre or that culture? I will listen to them.”


Photographers discuss dog show at Aspen Chapel Gallery

Ten participating artists will discuss their photography in the current Aspen Chapel Gallery show, “Man’s Best Friend,” on Wednesday.

The exhibition is in partnership with the Aspen Animal Shelter. The show includes canine-centric work by Dan Bayer, Ted Bristol, Annie Hosier, Klaus Kocher, Heather Lafferty, Brenda ManesBland Nesbit, Bryna Patterson, Karen Sanders and Summers Moore, who also curated the show and will lead Wednesday’s hour-long discussion.

“The pictures of dogs, cats and horses has delighted viewers because most of us relate to animals,” Moore said in an announcement. However, there is more to the pictures than what you see and our discussion will be more in depth about the photographs, process and technique.”

The show opened last month with a lively reception including artists, locals and their four-legged friends. A percentage of art sales are being donated to the Aspen Animal Shelter.

The talk is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. “Man’s Best Friend” runs through Nov. 25.

Carbondale comes together for Dia de los Muertos

A tradition borrowed from Mexico, Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, has become an annual gathering for the town of Carbondale.

A holiday that dates back hundreds of years, Dia de los Muertos is a time for families and friends to remember family members who have died.

“So many of our families have Latin American backgrounds. It’s a good way to recognize that at a community level,” Valley Settlement Executive Director Jon Fox-Rubin said.

The Roaring Fork Valley celebration, which began as a fairly small event over a decade ago, has grown over the years.

The collaboration of the community now includes Carbondale Arts, Valley Settlement, Thunder River Theatre Company, SOL Theatre, The Third Street Center, Mezcla Socials and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklorico.

“It is a time to honor those who have passed on. For Carbondale it is also an opportunity for our different cultures to come together,” Carbondale Arts Executive Director Amy Kimberly said. “That is one of the most wonderful things about Dia.”

Carbondale Arts will bring the community together on First Friday, as festivities will begin at 5 p.m. at the Third Street Center where altars made by families honoring the departed will be on display.

“It is very colorful. The altars are all very moving and honor something or someone who has passed,” Kimberly said. “It is a great mix of traditional altars and then artful altars that are very nontraditional.”

There will be dance performances and Que Viva, where loved ones will take a moment at the altars to say the names of anyone who died in the past year.

At 6:30 p.m., a procession of more than 200 people will go from the Third Street Center through town to Thunder River Theatre.

A giant Katrina puppet and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklorico will lead the procession with participants dressed in traditional costumes and dancing.

According to Fox-Rubin, it is an opportunity for children and adults to dress up and partake in some of the historical traditions.

There will be two performances by Ballet Folklorico at Thunder River Theatre at 7 and 7:45 p.m.

The evening will close with a fire/aerial silk show at the Fourth Street Plaza on Main Street by Dance of the Sacred Fire Troupe, which is new to this year’s event.

“What’s neat about Carbondale is we have two dominant cultures side by side, the historic Anglo culture and the newer Latino culture,” Fox-Rubin said.

“It’s a neat way to engage all ages and folks from different backgrounds together.”


Glenwood Springs students find voice with theater piece

For the past month, Glenwood Springs Middle School and Voices, a nonprofit founded by local poet Barbara Reese and is based out of Carbondale, have been working together to create a one-of-a-kind theater project.

Voices began in 2016 with the mission to amplify voices of diverse populations through the arts.

The Voices Project, the flagship program of Voices which started in 2017 at Basalt High School, is a four-week program including two weeks in the classroom writing, creating vignettes, poetry and symbolic movement pieces exploring the theme of change and growth.

Cassidy Willey, a bilingual teaching artist who is directing the project, started working with 45 sixth-grade students in both Traci Wilson’s art class and Lucia Campbell’s English language developer’s class for the student-generated project.

According to Campbell, she has seen her students gain confidence in their writing through the project’s on-demand and improvised nature of writing exercises. It also has helped reinforce the notion of writing as a process with a purpose that is first and foremost about generating and sharing ideas.

“It made me want to do it because I like making up things,” GSMS sixth-grader Eleazar Mellian said of his vibrant imagination he brings to the project.

A handful of students self-selected for the commitment to the everyday project and wanted to continue the work outside of the classroom performing onstage.

“We have five really awesome, excited, brave students that are going to take the stage on Saturday with their original work,” Willey said.

The five sixth-graders have spent the past two weeks on the stage after school honing their performances and improvisation.

“My job is just to help make it performance-ready, and help to galvanize behind their ideas and their passion and then translate them to the stage,” Willey said.

Titled “Here We Go Again,” the project is based around the theme of change, with all student-generated ideas and themes. Each individual piece of the performance is based on what they are excited about and what they wanted to do.

“They did a lot of brainstorming about changes they are going through, working with improvisation,” Willey said.

Scenes include a piece about their first day of school, an improv game with changing emotions set in a barber shop, and twins getting lost acted out in pantomime.

“I really like just being able to interact with others in a performance,” GSMS sixth-grader Isabella Waymire said.

The group will be giving a small preview today for their sixth-grade classmates at GSMS, before Saturday’s 6 p.m. performance that is free and open to family, friends and the community at Glenwood Springs Middle School.

“We are all are all just kind of taking this big creative, emotional leap together and then supporting one another to put all the pieces in place to make the final product,” Willey said.


After short hiatus, the Culinary Arts Festival returns

After a year off, the Glenwood Springs Arts Council is ready to hold its annual fundraiser highlighting the community’s culinary arts.

“Everyone kept coming up to us saying they missed the culinary arts event because it was part of the fall, so we decided to give it a go and bring it back,” said Glenwood Springs Arts Council Treasurer Judy O’Donnell.

The Art of Food + Drink themed event will be held today, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hotel Colorado.

“It’s a chance to see everybody in town. It’s just a good event,” O’Donnell said.

Food from local restaurants including the Hotel Colorado, the Pullman, the Riviera Supper Club, Colorado Ranch House, Sunshine and Moon, Uncle Pizza and Eat; along with drink vendors Cooper Wine and Spirits, Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub, Kendall Jackson, 10th Mountain Tasting Room and Tin Cup.

“It’s a chance for our attendees to sample more then a dozen restaurant and drink vendors,” council volunteer Terry Glasenapp said.

Roaring Fork Valley’s own Valle Musico will entertain the crowd with their fusion of classical, rock, Latin and improv sounds.

Tickets are $50 purchased in advance, $60 at the door. Tickets are available at GlenwoodArts.org, by calling 970-355-9689, and at A LA CARTE, High Country Gems, and Jewels and Gems, all in Glenwood Springs.

“Instead of going out, come to the Arts Council event at the Hotel Colorado,” O’Donnell said.

Both O’Donnell and Glasenapp say it’s a perfect time for the community to come together around a common interest, and help support the Arts Council.


The council, which was founded in 1982 to help promote and educate the arts through cultural events, concerts, poetry readings, exhibits and more, is reorganizing after the Center for the Arts, which it ran, closed last year due to financial reasons.

The council will hold a strategic planning meeting the first of November to set new goals and a mission plan deciding what the future holds for the group.

“Where do we go from here, what exactly is the council going to be, how we are going to be reorganized since we don’t have a facility anymore?” O’Donnell said.

“How we can make a difference in the community in the future?”

O’Donnell and Glasenapp said the council hopes to continue through sponsoring more events and working with other organizations to create partnerships for future events.

“The economic value of the arts I think has a really proven record in communities all around the world,” Glasenapp said, “When the arts thrive people want to be there, restaurants, local businesses, things get more beautiful, when there is more art.”