Photos: Creede Rep leaves town with party to announce 2014 plans

By John Moore
To see caption information on any photo above, or to see the gallery on a mobile phone, click here. (It will be on the lower-left corner.) Or just click “show info” on any photo.

By John Moore
Nov. 1, 2013

The Creede Repertory Theatre marked the closing of its annual fall staging at the Arvada Center on Sunday with a party in downtown Denver during which the revered, remote mountain theater company’s plans for the summer of 2014 were revealed.

Artistic director Jessica Jackson announced Creede Rep’s 49th season, to be held in its two separate theaters that line Main Street, at a festive gathering at the Wazee Street Supper Club.

The eight-show slate again cuts a wide swath … just not as wide as we’ve become accustomed to in years past. The season ranges from contemporary comedies (“Hope and Gravity” and “The Last Romance”) to a traditional American musical (“Annie Get Your Gun”) to children’s theater (“Pants on Fire) to late-night improv comedy (“Boomtown”).

Creede, located 250 miles southwest of Denver, has weathered natural disasters the past two summers — in 2012, it was the influx of Hollywood crews filming the Johnny Depp bomb “The Lone Ranger”; and, in 2013, it was a trio of devastating nearby wildfires. Both catastrophes kept tourists away from Creede in the early summer. That may explain why the company’s 2014 lineup, for the first time in years, doesn’t include a title that could be called particularly groundbreaking or cutting-edge. (Last summer, that would have been its epic zombie Shakespeare mash-up, “William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead.”) It’s time to regroup and recoup.

Creede has built a national reputation for presenting risk-taking, original works alongside more standard, crowd-pleasing fare, but while the 2014 slate includes the newest works by Michael Hollinger, Joe DiPietro and David Ives (all titles new to Colorado), the collective lineup makes for a comparatively safe season by Creede standards.

Creede is a tiny mining town in the San Juan mountains where only 400 people live year-round, but with a summer population that swells to 20,000. As the largest employer in Mineral County, the theater company has long been a powerful economic generator for southern Colorado. Creede Rep is a powerful lure for some of Denver’s top actors and directors, including most recently John Arp, Christy Montour-Larson and a steady stream of Denver Center Theatre Company members from both on and off the stage. And Creede Rep has returned the favor, infusing the Denver theater community with a steady stream of new actors who first came to Colorado from Creede and then make significant impacts in Denver, including Michael Bouchard, Jake Walker, Diana Dresser and many others.

After closing Season 48 in Creede in September, Jackson moved “Around the World in 80 Days” up to the Arvada Center, where it played for three weeks. That show featured, among others, Arp and Caitlin Wise, a longtime Creede Repper and a graduate of the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory.

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Creede Rep’s 2014 summer season

(Descriptions provided by the Creede Repertory Theatre)
“Annie Get Your Gun”
By Irving Berlin, Herbert & Dorothy Fields. Revised by Peter Stone.
The feisty love story of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler set against the backdrop of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Irving Berlin’s timeless score includes “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “I Got the Sun in the Mornin’” and “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly.” Annie shoots for the stars, hits her target and lives scrappily ever after.

“The Liar”
By David Ives
Adapted from the comedy by Pierre Corneille
Paris, 1643. A charming young man has only one flaw: he cannot tell the truth. He hires a servant who cannot tell a lie, falls in love with Lucrece, whom he thinks is Clarice, who is secretly engaged to his best friend. Nor is he aware that his father is trying to marry him off to Clarice, whom he thinks is Lucrece, who actually is in love with him. His increasingly-more-ridiculous lies add up to a sparkling romantic farce, adapted for modern audiences.

“The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild”
By Paul Zindel
Mildred’s life is ordinary. But her dream world, fed by the 3,000 movies she has eagerly devoured, is spectacular. And when the outside world intrudes via her husband, his meddling sister, their hard-boiled landlady, or the wrecking crew sent to tear down the building – Mildred meets each crisis with a hilarious fantasy drawn from her precious lode of old movies. She makes for a kooky, lovable and enchanting heroine.

“The Last Romance”
By Joe DiPietro
Company favorites John Green, Christy Brandt and Annie Butler will star in this golden-years romantic comedy. Ralph, an elderly widower, feels young again – all thanks to an unexpected second chance at love. Relying on a renewed boyish charm, Ralph attempts to woo the elegant, but distant, Carol. Up against Carol’s reluctance and his domineering sister’s meddling, Ralph embarks on the challenge of a lifetime, and regains a happiness that seemed all but lost.

“Hope and Gravity”
By Michael Hollinger
Lives overlap and elevators stop on random floors as nine characters are compellingly revealed in this contemporary comedy about fate. From an impossible elevator accident to an unlikely hotel hook-up, chance encounters lead to surprising connections. From the author of 2012’s “Ghost-Writer,” this deeply fascinating play traces nine stories, told out-of-order, that lead inevitably to one momentous leap of faith.

“Pants on Fire”
A totally made-up musical for kids
Ever wondered what would happen if you could control a play? This hour-long improvised musical is created from the imaginations of kids in the audience. It’s your adventure. We just live in it.

“Boomtown”
Improv Comedy
Back, as they say, “by jocular demand.” Armed with only an audience suggestion and their twisted imaginations, these inventive actors perform an unscripted, often bizarre show.

Ticket information:
Call 719-658-2540
Go to www.creederep.org
The theater is located at 124 N. Main St.

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Shows go on, theaters safe as fires rage near Creede, Pagosa Springs

Dramatic photos of the three forest fires near Creede that have cast a surreal haze over the Creede Repertory Theatre’s 2013 summer season. The shows are going on because fire authorities have determined the town 250 miles southwest of Denver to be safe. Photos by John Gary Brown and Charles Maze. To see caption information for any photo above, or to see this gallery if looking on a mobile phone, click here. (The information is posted on the lower-left corner of each photo.) Or just click the “show info” option on any photo.

 

By John Moore
June 25, 2013

A giant smoke plume from the West Fork Fire over the Creede Repertory Theatre's mainstage theater. Photo by Charles Maze.

A giant smoke plume from the West Fork Fire over the Creede Repertory Theatre’s mainstage theater. Photo by Charles Maze.

Creede was overrun last summer by a Hollywood movie company. But the scene in the tiny, remote mining town today is far more surreal than anything Disney could ever imagine.

Plumes of smoke and shooting flames from three nearby forest fires have painted a whole new picture of one Colorado’s most picturesque spots. The sky has turned yellow-gray,
and little bits of ash and burnt Aspen leaves sprinkle down on the town.

Fire officials have deemed this trio of Southern Colorado fires to be the most threatening in the state, and the highest firefighting priority in the country.

But the message from Creede, home to one of Colorado’s oldest theater companies: “It’s safe. The shows go on. … And please come.”

The 48-year-old Creede Repertory Theatre, the largest employer in Mineral County, is going ahead with plans to open its fourth of seven summer offerings on Friday. “Around the World in 80 Days” joins “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “The Language of Trees” and a children’s show ironically titled “Pants on Fire” at two theaters along what has become a deserted Main Street.

Well, not completely deserted.

“This place has really cleared out,” said artistic director Jessica Jackson. “But there are 70 theater artists, a bunch of law enforcement officials and, of course, our loyal locals. We want people to know we’re here … right in the middle of all this craziness.”

Creede is nestled high in the San Juan Mountains 250 miles southwest of Denver. The Thingamajig Theatre Company, which recently opened an ambitious summer season including “Spamalot” and “The Full Monty,” is located 60 miles south of Creede in Pagosa Springs. The shows are going on there as well, but Wolf Creek Pass is closed to motor traffic because of poor visibility, so the only way in for now is through northern New Mexico. No estimate has been given for when the Pass will re-open.

Creede has a hardy year-round population of 400. But that number typically swells to 20,000 in the summertime as tourists flock to the area for its hunting, fishing, hiking, theater and water recreation. So it’s more than a little strange for the company to be performing its award-winning plays in June to houses that are barely one-third filled.

The West Fork Complex Fire includes the West Fork Fire, the Papoose Fire and the Windy Pass Fire, which have burned 75,000 combined acres near highways 149 and 160 between Creede, South Fork and the Wolf Creek Ski Area. The closest to Creede is the West Fork Fire. It has large smoke plumes piling up over Snowshoe Mountain, about 10 miles from town.  The Papoose Fire is about 16 miles away along Highway 149, where firefighters are doing point protection behind certain homes and structures. Highway 149 between South Fork and Creede is now open to escorted traffic from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (on the half hour from South Fork to Creede; on the hour from Creede to South Fork). The theater is taking steps to make sure anyone needing to be at the final evening escort checkpoint will arrive on time.

Fire authorities believe the fires will die out within five to seven days. They are making twice-daily safety assessments of the town of Creede, and so far, they have had no reason to call for an evacuation. For the most part, it is business as usual — except for the lack of tourists.

“But they really, truly believe Creede is safe,” Jackson said.

And because it is safe, she said, the fires are affording a once-in-a-lifetime experience for members of her company. When they take 10-minute breaks, the actors and crew run outside to take in a scene that’s breathtaking in more ways than one. But every afternoon, Jackson says, the smoke and sky almost miraculously clear out, and an evening calm settles in over Creede.

Monday was the company’s day off. As Jackson sat at a picnic table outside the company’s housing complex, she was surrounded by actors, technicians and staff members who were grilling hamburgers, jamming to Aretha Franklin and playing a game company members invented call Four-Pie. “Seriously,” she said.

“Maybe we are fools, but we’re having a great time making plays and being a family of artists.”

Last summer, Creede’s early season attendance suffered as well, but for different reasons. The crew that filmed Johnny Depp’s “The Lone Ranger” claimed nearly every vacant room within a 50-mile radius of Creede. But one thing is for sure this June, Jackson said: “You won’t have any trouble finding lodging in Creede right now.”

Because many regular Creede Rep patrons planned their 2012 visits to Creede around “Occupy Disney,” the theater company’s numbers bounced back quickly after “The Lone Ranger” wrapped.

“Last year, we made up those numbers in July and August, and finished with our second-best season attendance ever,” Jackson said. “That bodes well that we can rally back from this as well.”

Jackson said the company is getting by for now on support from the locals.

“Our community of townspeople, donors and patrons are very supportive,” she said. “After the fire has gone out, it’s possible some new ticket deals will be put into effect. We are going to call on everyone who loves Creede and the Creede Repertory Theatre to come and show their support by attending our shows, eating in our restaurants and staying in our hotels. It’s not just the theater company that’s been affected … it’s the whole town. We’ll have to remind everyone out there that Creede has not been touched by the fire. Our forests, vistas and canyons are still as gorgeous as ever.”

Creede will soon add its improv comedy offering “Boomtown” to the summer repertoire, along with a Westernized “The Tamin’ of the Shrew” and a fun zombie thriller called “William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead.” The company will be offering live performances through Sept. 21, after which it will bring “Around the World in 80 Days” to the Arvada Center (Oct. 1-27).

“I have never been more impressed by this company,” Jackson said. “They not only believe that tired adage that ‘the show must go on,’ but they embody it in their actions with humility, bravery — and a healthy dose of irreverent humor.

“We’ll be OK. This theater has been around for 48 years, and some measly raging infernos won’t keep it down. We just have to convince people to come back once the smoke clears. And we will.”

2013 CREEDE REPERTORY THEATRE SEASON
124 N. Main St., Creede, 719-658-2540, 1-866-658-2540, or creede rep’s home page
Through Aug. 7: “The Language of Trees,” at the Ruth Humphreys Brown Theatre
Through Aug. 24: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”
Through Aug. 31: “Pants on Fire,” at the Ruth Humphreys Brown Theatre
June 28-Sept. 21: “Around the World in 80 Days”
July 5-Aug. 30: “Boomtown” improv comedy, at the Ruth Humphreys Brown Theatre
July 26-Sept. 19: “The Tamin’ of the Shrew”
Aug. 16-Sept. 20: “William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead,” at the Ruth Humphreys Brown Theatre
Oct. 1-27: “Around the World in 80 Days,” at the Arvada Center

2013 THINGAMAJIG THEATRE COMPANY
2313 Eagle Drive, Pagosa Springs, 970-731-7469 or thingamajig’s home page
Through July 31: “Monty Python’s Spamalot”
Through Aug. 8: “The Full Monty”
Aug. 16-Sept. 1: “Good People”

 

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):