Teamwork takes center stage in local productions | AspenTimes.com

Teamwork takes center stage in local productions

Carla Jean Whitley
Glenwood Springs Post Indpendent

Look onstage at Thunder River Theatre Co. this weekend and you'll spot actors from across the Roaring Fork Valley; if you could see off stage, you might recognize even more faces. Down in Basalt, behind the scenes at the high school, professionals from Theatre Aspen, Belly Up and other entities coach the student actors and ensure the show is top-notch. And though Sopris Theatre Co.'s "Sixteen Wounded" includes only five roles, frequent theatergoers will spot faces they've seen in productions at Glenwood Vaudeville Revue and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the choreography you'll see at Glenwood Springs High School's "The Addams Family" originated with Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts' Christina Brusig.

This shared thread is common among productions in the Roaring Fork Valley, where the theater companies are quick to collaborate.

"When I first moved here, I was just so surprised and delighted by the range of everything that's available here, … particularly in terms of the arts, how much possibility there was and how much opportunity," said Thunder River Executive Director Corey Simpson.

HOW DOES IT SHOW UP?

Simpson, who will himself appear onstage in "The Tempest," has been employed by the company for a year and performed with Thunder River and others throughout his life.

"First of all, we're friends," Simpson said. "Many of the people at the other organizations I've been onstage with, I've directed, I've worked with before, I've served on their boards. So I think there's a very family feel in the arts community locally. That just lends itself to wanting to be collaborative and helping one another as much as possible."

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It shows up in a variety of ways. The theater companies often lend each other costumes or set pieces, whereas rentals are more common in some other markets. Actors and crew are also involved in productions across companies.

At Basalt High School, high school and middle school choir director Brittany von Stein works alongside director/choreographer Marisa Post, Theatre Aspen's first director of education. Von Stein credits Post with drawing a diverse talent pool to the production. The school doesn't have a drama department, and working with Post allowed von Stein, in her second year at the school, to develop relationships that benefit the students.

"After she was involved, she went through her phone and contacted anyone and everyone," von Stein said with a laugh. "Marisa had a posse that came with her and it was good that it was all across the board, people are wanting to help out and give back to the community."

WHAT'S THE POINT?

"As a nonprofit, we're always looking for how we can provide the most programming with the amount of resources," Simpson said. Thunder River works to "keep overhead down and keep our programming up."

But there also are intangible benefits, such as the exchange of creativity that occurs when working with different people.

Of course, there are also downsides. The cost of living means it's difficult for many artists to make ends meet in this area. Life in a rural area also results in different challenges than an urban theater would face.

"There's a smaller pool of people to choose from here than there would be in a larger city," Simpson said. "There are so many productions happening all the time that our local talent pool does get stretched."

Theater is itself a collaborative art, von Stein noted. It helps develop the habits of a scholar: executive skills, perseverance, enthusiasm, teamwork and compassion.

"They take all these skills and put them to the test every day," she said. "That's something I know they don't really have in a math class."

Collaboration also helps theater companies reach diverse audiences. Simpson and Thunder River specifically look for ways to reach Latino audiences and create opportunities for women in theater.

And then there's the schools. Two student matinees of "The Tempest" quickly sold out.

"It's just a way of introducing them to this incredible world of theater and also creating that next generation of theater artists, as well, not just audience members," Simpson said.

School theater departments and productions likewise work toward that end.

"We want to be make sure they have the best education. Working with high-end directors, music directors and designers makes the students feel like they are in a professional production," von Stein said.

Working alongside a range of theater professionals also expands student perceptions of what's possible, von Stein said.

"Basalt is just very laid-back. We like to give them that professional experience, and it's something different than they're used to," she said. "Anyone can be successful. Anyone can do it if they have hard work and perseverance."

If you go

“The Addams Family”

The original story features a grown-up Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, who has fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family – a man her parents have never met. Everything will change for the whole family on the fateful night they host a dinner for Wednesday’s “normal” boyfriend and his parents.

7 p.m. Feb. 24-25, March 3-4; March 4, 2 p.m.

Glenwood Springs High School Auditorium, 1521 Grand Ave.

Admission: $15 adults, $10 students, children and matinees; available online at tinyurl.com/gshsaddams and at the door

Info: 384-5555

“Sixteen Wounded”

Sopris Theatre Company’s production is told with both heart-wrenching honesty and humor. The characters struggle with their personal identities and their loyalties — to their pasts, to their beliefs and, finally, to each other.

7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $18 adults, $13 students, seniors, and CMC staff and faculty

New Space Theatre at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley, 3000 County Road 114

Info and tickets: coloradomtn.edu/theatre and click on Sopris Theatre Company at CMC; tickets click on the Eventbrite link; or call 947-8177

“The Tempest”

Thunder River Theatre Company presents an exciting, new adaptation of William Shakespeare’s magical play “The Tempest.” Directed and designed by Lon Winston, the performance stars 12 local actors including Jeff Carlson as Prospero, Trary Maddalone as Ariel, Nathan Cox as Caliban, Dena Barnes as Alonsa, Gerald DeLisser as Stephano and Owen O’Farrell as Trinculo, among others.

7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and March 3-5 and 9-11, including 2 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $15-$30

67 Promenade, Carbondale

Info and tickets: 963-8200 and thunderrivertheatre.com

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

Basalt High School presents the hilarious take-off on a school spelling bee, with audience participation incorporated as a key part of the musical.

7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. matinee Saturday

Admission: $15 adults, $10 students and seniors

Basalt High School, 600 Southside Drive

Info and tickets: basaltchoir.weebly.com