Lum: Adventures at Aspen Theatre

On Sunday afternoon, my friend Hilary and I went to the matinee of Aspen Community Theatre’s “The Producers,” a thoroughly enjoyable romp of a production with a seeming cast of hundreds — the costume changing backstage must have been bedlam.

Tom Ward’s sets were — as always — testimony to his exceptional creativity, the actors were uniformly terrific— it was great to see Willie Moseley back on stage — the orchestra was superb, and the Busby Berkeley dance routines were executed with precision. I especially liked the number with the old ladies and their walkers.

A grand time was had by all.

I do, however, have a small litany of complaints about the Aspen District Theatre itself.

When the theater was built, no one realized how many locals soon would join the ranks of the halt and the lame; as a consequence, handicapped parking sucks. There are insufficient spaces down what appears to some of us to be a very large hill (to others, a small slope).

Once you get into the actual theater, you are faced with an extremely steep staircase completely absent of handrails of any sort.

Several years ago, I took my old friend Doris Barlow, then 93, to see “The Wizard of Oz.” Someone else had ordered our tickets, which, to our horror, were in the front row. I thought for sure that, at best, Doris would slip and break a hip or, at worst, she would somersault down the entire flight and flip into the orchestra pit.

With a little help from our friends, we managed to navigate her down and back, but it was white-knuckle all the way. I mean, really — no handrails?

I ordered our tickets online for the Sunday matinee, so I have only myself to blame that I inadvertently booked us into the balcony. I had never been to the balcony and was unaware that a balcony existed, much less a balcony accessed by 38 steps, a very long uphill hike for a halt person.

Need I even mention that there was no elevator? But there were handrails, and I hauled myself up, Hilary carrying my oxygen machine. I had to bring my heaviest one, dragging in a nasty, wheeled cart, to last through the show without audible puffing (the puffers last longer and weigh less but disturb anyone within earshot).

We reached the top of the stairs, breathing hard, only to face a vertical flight of stairs (with no handrails) back down to our assigned seats in the front row of the balcony. Hilary suggested that I make the decent step by step on my butt, while I envisioned pitching down the stairs and over the rail.

Fortunately, others knew the perils of the uppermost tier and had avoided it, leaving the balcony half empty. We took seats in the back row and, from this nosebleed perch, had a fine view of the entire stage but were too far away to recognize actual faces.

On the way back down the 38 steps, I noticed an exit door at the landing midway. This door opened directly to the first row of the balcony, where our original seats were. This midway point is where the ticket-taker should be stationed — it’s a lot easier to crawl up a ladder of stairs than it is to venture down them. Not that there will be a next time for the balcony for me.

Su Lum is a longtime local who is too soon old and too late smart. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at