Stacia Bolitho at home, on stage, in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Stacia Bolitho at home, on stage, in Aspen

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Aspen Community Theatre's 2011 production of "Avita" Program photos, Oct. 18, 2011.

ASPEN – When Stacia Bolitho was thinking of moving to the Roaring Fork Valley area, no doubt she ran down the standard checklist of things a young wife considers when relocating: jobs, housing, schools, suitability for raising a family.And, in Bolitho’s case, theater opportunities.”I took it upon myself to track down all the theater, what there was,” Bolitho, who moved to the area west of Glenwood Springs, four years ago. “Because once you get hit by the theater bug, you’re in for life. I had to find out if I’d go crazy, or if there was an outlet.”Bolitho, whose husband, Ryan, was raised in Glenwood, satisfied herself that her sanity would be intact in the region when she started investigating Aspen Community Theatre. At the time, in 2007, ACT was doing “She Loves Me,” an unusually small-scale production, with just four actors. And all Bolitho could see of the show from her then home in Boca Raton, Fla., was some photos. But it was enough. “That was so indicative of how much attention to detail was paid,” she said.Bolitho was eager to make the jump from looking at pictures to performing, but family – namely, her son, Silas, now 2 – came first, along with finding a job and settling into her new home. Each year she would find out what show was being produced – “Chicago” in 2008, “The Music Man” in 2009 – and ponder whether she could make it work into her schedule. Last year she gave serious consideration to auditioning for “1776,” but she opted to do the Glenwood-based Defiance Community Theatre Company’s “On the Town” instead. Not only was she unable to appear in the ACT shows, she couldn’t even see them performed.When Bolitho heard that the organization was going to do “Evita” this fall, that familiar tickle came to her. It had nothing to do with the show itself; she wasn’t familiar with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s show about Eva Pern, the controversial and memorable First Lady of Argentina, or the 1996 film adaptation, starring Madonna in the title role. But the timing was right – or, put another way, it was time for her to get back onstage. As she said, she was in for life, and without theater, something was incomplete in her life.”I was tracking ‘Evita’ for months before auditions,” the 26-year-old Bolitho said. “I saw Madonna’s performance and thought, ‘That could be fun.’ I rented the soundtrack four months in advance.”The preparation paid off. When Aspen Community Theatre’s production of “Evita” opened Thursday night at the Aspen District Theatre, the mighty-voiced Bolitho was making her ACT debut in the starring role.Bolitho has a handful of veterans to show her the ACT ropes. “Evita” is directed and choreographed by Marisa Post, whose past shows as director include ACT’s “Chicago” and “The Sound of Music.” Playing President Juan Pern is Scott MacCracken, who has had featured roles in “1776,” “Chicago” and “A Little Night Music”; Che Guevara is played by Franz Alderfer, who had the role of the lawyer Billy Flynn in “Chicago.” The production crew includes Rita Hunter and Jody Hecht, ACT’s longtime co-producers, and set designer Tom Ward. ••••Bolitho’s family was vigorously supportive of the arts – her mother is a singer-songwriter – and Bolitho pegs herself as “that classic story – sang in church; played in church; doing school plays; appearing in home videos at 3, standing in front of the family, performing.” In fourth grade, she discovered “Phantom of the Opera” – another Andrew Lloyd Webber creation – which elevated her ambitions from “church stuff to being a real theater hound. ‘Think of Me’ – I thought it was the most beautiful thing,” Bolitho said of the song from “Phantom.” “My mom got me the cassette and I wore the thing out. I discovered the world of show tunes.”The moment with Mr. Nonhof, one of several influential teachers, then, wasn’t so much a turning point as a moment of clarity. Bolitho was a high school junior playing Sally Brown in “this tiny, private school, nothing” version of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Still, Bolitho might as well have been on Broadway for all the joy performing gave her: “I loved it so much.” During one performance, she messed up a scene, leaving her in doubt of her abilities. But in the parking lot, she saw Mr. Nonhof, who seemed barely aware of any missteps.Bolitho describes it with the detail associated with momentous occasions: “He looked at me over the top of the car and said, ‘You could do this for a living.'”It was a lightbulb moment: ‘Yeah, people do this for a living.'”While studying theater at the Christian-oriented Southeastern University in Florida, Bolitho heard the big-time calling. “As with every theater major, my whole life was pointing toward New York,” she said. But then she saw a documentary – not on a Broadway actress, but a film about child soldiers in Uganda. “That slammed the brakes on everything. I had to check this out more.”Moved by the story of children abducted and forced into war, Bolitho turned her attention from Manhattan to San Diego, where Invisible Children, a nonprofit whose mission is to end the practice, is based. She moved to California to do humanitarian work – but, of course, with one eye still peeking at theater opportunities. In San Diego, she toured the facilities at Christian Youth Theatre – “wrongly thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll have some time …” Bolitho said. Her work at Invisible Children involved taking the documentary, also called “Invisible Children,” around the country for screenings. She managed to squeeze in a little bit of theater: “My tour-mates were inundated with show tunes, constantly,” the sweet-tempered Bolitho said.At Invisible Children, Bolitho met Ryan, who would become her husband. The couple decided to settle near Glenwood; they now live in Silt. Even though it’s not New York, Bolitho has managed to make theater part of her work. She teaches at the Garden School, a private school that works with homeschooled children, where her duties include directing plays and conducting the choir. She has even made it to Manhattan: this past summer, she took a group of her students to New York, where they saw proper high-end theater (“Romeo and Juliet,” by the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the Park Avenue Armory), and experimental theater (“The Comedy of Errors” by Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, which featured actual traffic driving through the production, in lower Manhattan). It wasn’t the dream of the young actor tromping from audition to audition, but Bolitho found it to be a nice taste of New York, and an opportunity for self-assessment which proved illuminating .”It was the most minute ‘I live in New York’ feeling – coming back to my apartment, put the key in the door,” she said. “And it made me think: Do I really still want to do that? And the answer is no. It’s not what I want for my toddler, even if it is what I want for me.”Bolitho returned to the stage last year with “On the Town,” which only raised her affection for performing. “I love directing, love being on the production side,” she said. “But whenever I see an amazing performance, like ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ I think I’ve got to get back onstage.”If she had her pick of parts, Bolitho would play Mother from “Ragtime,” her all-time favorite musical, or Christine Daa, the lead female role in “Phantom.” But she’s got no complaints about taking on Eva Pern, who was First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death, at the age of 33, in 1952.”She is a force to be reckoned with. She’s so iconic on so many levels,” Bolitho said. “There’s Eva herself, and how iconic she is, how much she’s still beloved by her people, the statues and hospitals and the Evita City she built.”Then you move into the realm of theater, and Patti LuPone won a Tony for playing her. Then the movie, and it’s Madonna. Everywhere you look, there are iconic women portraying her.”Then there is the meatiness of the role. Eva faces romance and tragedy, has power and compassion and ambition. The musical tracks her from her teenage years to her death.”I’ve never felt I’ve had to think my way through a role where I age from 15 to 33, die of cancer, fall in love with all these different guys, and pretend like Che isn’t there,” she said.Add in a commute, a young son and a demanding rehearsal schedule, it’s a lot to ask of an actor who is volunteering in a community theater production. Bolitho is up to it; she’s been up to it her whole life.”Marisa said at the beginning, ‘If you need a day off, time to rest, let us know,” Bolitho recalled. “I said, ‘This is home.’ If I’m going through any of those things, this is where I need to be.”stewart@aspentimes.com