A historical revue of the Roaring Fork Valley — Ute to host ‘Jack Roberts Live: A historical musical revue’

Kelly Thompson, right, and play director Stephanie Askew take part in a dress rehearsal for the ‘Jack Roberts Live: A historical musical revue’.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

From the Ute Indian Tribes to the saloon days and later Crystal River Valley politics — Jack Roberts’ lifelong passion was documenting the rich history of the Roaring Fork Valley.

“One thing about an artist, and especially Jack, is that they interpret history. They don’t necessarily take a photograph and paint it but they interpret what might have happened,” Roberts’ son and longtime Rifle resident Gary Miller said.

Born in Oklahoma City, Roberts made the move to Colorado in 1947 shortly after Miller was born — a time when alcohol controlled most of his life.

Twenty years later, Miller reconnected with Roberts and spent the summer getting to know, his father — and the man’s adventurous way of life in Glenwood Springs.

“I really never met anybody like that,” Miller said. “He was very outgoing and crazy and swinging arms and didn’t care who he offended when it came to issues of ecology or history.”

After spending the 1950s and ’60s living in a resort at the base of Hanging Lake, Roberts relocated to Redstone, where he dove deep into the history of the Roaring Fork and Crystal River valleys.

“His career really blossomed then because he had a chance to work uninterrupted,” Miller said. “He eventually became really fascinated with in-depth study of Western history.”

Roberts would later become actively involved in preserving the Crystal River and Marble area from overdevelopment and used his artistic abilities to express his opinions. Political cartoons drawn up by Roberts were printed in newspapers from Glenwood Springs to Aspen and Denver.

Director Stephanie Askew, right, leads a rehearsal for the “Jack Roberts Live: A Historical Musical Revue.”
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Today, Roberts’ paintings depicting the Western way of life can be found all over the valley and across the state.

A historical musical revue

Longtime musician, actor, singer, performer and owner of Redstone Art gallery, Stephanie Askew, will be bringing Roberts’ work to life on stage after years of research.

Askew reached out to Miller in fall 2018 and the two began discussing how to make the performance a reality.

“The research I did initially was to see how many paintings I could find to actually pull this together and have some substance to work from. After that I clumped them into categories,” Askew said. “Then I started writing the script and the narrative.”

The performances unfold chronologically starting with the Ute Indian Tribe, then the mining days followed by the cowboys and saloon days. The last section will focus on the political cartoons he did about the proposed Marble Ski Resort and Crystal River Valley.

“He painted large women, and his girlfriend was a large, buxom woman so she was probably one of his models,” Askew said. “He also loved to paint about cowboys getting haircuts ­­— getting all spruced up for going out on the town.”

The musical consists of originals written by Askew as well as songs taken from Roberts’ paintings and cartoons.

The “Jack Roberts Live: A Historical Musical Revue” will be coming to the Ute Theater from Sept. 16-18.
Courtesy poster

“I want people to meet Jack Roberts through his paintings since he’s not here anymore,” Askew said. “The reason I wanted to do this was because I wanted people to learn who this amazing person was and the challenges he went through in his life.”

Roberts’ paintings will be shown on a large screen as a narrator depicts the history associated with each of the eras. Costumes, performances and songs will be drawn directly from his paintings.

“It’s really Stephanie’s interpretation of Jack’s paintings,” Miller said. “Even though he had grandiose ideas of being internationally famous, I think this would have satisfied him so much that he would have just been shocked.”

“I’m sad that I never got to meet Jack as a person but through this journey, I feel that he has become my best friend,” Askew said. “He had such a passion and I admire that … I’m honored to be part of this.”

Performance dates are Sept. 16, 17 and 18 in Rifle.