Theatre Aspen to present a new end-of-summer festival
A six-day festival presenting new work on stage will cap an extended 10-week Theatre Aspen season this summer.
The nonprofit’s Aspen Theatre Festival will run Aug. 23 to 28 at the Hurst Theatre in Rio Grande Park and will include a play, a musical and a composer who will work with emerging actors in the TA Apprentice program on a work in progress, according to Theatre Aspen Artistic Director Paige Price.
The play is “The Agent,” a new two-character piece by Scott Martin, an Aspenite and Paramount Pictures attorney, about a Hollywood agent. Price said she is looking at two different musicals for the festival.
The format of the presentations will depend on how finished the new works are, she said, so some may be full productions and others may be readings or workshops reminiscent of May’s Theatre Aspen presentation of Duncan Shiek and Steven Sater’s in-progress “Alice By Heart.” The apprentices will perform a showcase of scenes and songs from their work with the composer-in-residence.
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The new festival will conclude Theatre Aspen’s summer season, which is expanding from eight to 10 weeks this year. It will include productions of the musical “Cabaret,” the play “Other Desert Cities” and the child-friendly “Junie B. Jones — The Musical.” The season opens June 26.
Price said serving as an incubator for new work is a new part of the nonprofit’s mission and strategic plan, hatched at a retreat early last year.
“We knew we’d gotten to a place where we could be aspirational again,” she said. “We’d dug ourselves out of debt, and got a great new venue (the Hurst, which opened in 2013). Talking about our new mission, doing new works is a part of that. We would like to make Aspen a destination for theater, like Sundance is for film.”
Castmembers from the summer season — typically a mix of Broadway pros, local actors and apprentices — will stick around for the festival performances.
“The way to stay relevant and attract talent is to do new work and encourage emerging artists,” Price said.
Tickets for the festival performances will be low, Price said, to encourage the whole community to experience new theater.
“It’s meant to be an easy access point to new works,” she said. “We want to spark the desire to discover new things, and price can be a barrier to entry.”
At its annual gala, Sunday, the organization raised $350,000 for its productions and education initiatives, surpassing fundraising goals for the financially resurgent organization, which two years ago completed a $2 million capital campaign for its new theater and has operated on a $1.75 million annual budget.
Placing the festival at the tail end of summer, after most other local arts organizations have ended their summer seasons, Price said, may allow it to expand and hold events in additional venues in the future.
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