Downvalley theater heads up
If You Go...
Who: Sopris Theatre Company
What: “The Glorious Ones”
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Wheeler Opera House
How Much: $20
At 10 a.m. on Thursday, the cast and crew of Sopris Theatre Company’s “The Glorious Ones” unloaded set pieces, costumes and props they took from Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus to the Wheeler Opera House. They spent the day setting up on the Wheeler stage and touring the theater, and then they ran the show once in preparation for a performance the next day.
“The Glorious Ones” was staged at CMC’s New Space Theater from Dec. 4 through 13, but thanks to a budding partnership between Sopris Theatre Company and the Wheeler Opera House, the cast of students and community members will take the show to Aspen at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $20.
This collaboration between the Wheeler and Sopris Theatre Company is thanks in large part to Brad Moore, who is directing “The Glorious Ones” and who has been involved in some capacity with almost every theater company in the valley. Moore used to serve on the board for the Wheeler, and his deep ties there have been vital in getting this partnership off the ground.
“There have been a lot of different pieces to the puzzle to try to make sure we’re offering our students the very best opportunity that we can here,” Moore said of the CMC theater program and Sopris Theatre Company, which is the company that draws its casts and crews from CMC students as well as community members. “And so with that in mind, having done shows at the Wheeler and knowing that we wanted to sort of expand our valley presence, I talked to Gram [Slaton, the Wheeler’s former executive director], and then more recently I’ve been working closely with Amy Kaiser, [senior manager for operations at the Wheeler], about getting a show a year up to the Wheeler.”
Last year was the first time the fruits of this collaboration were seen when Sopris Theatre Company’s production of “Amadeus” took the Wheeler stage. Moore said he and the theater department at CMC are much more organized now.
“We start the process, now, almost a year in advance as far as trying to decide what show, trying to set dates at the Wheeler, things like that,” Moore said. “We have to make sure that we can get the time in, and it’s a time that works for all of us. And we also try to make sure that we know as we’re selecting the season what show would be the one that makes sense to try and tour — not only in terms of scenery and that kind of thing, but something that would play to an Aspen audience. Then in designing the sets and lighting and things like that, we have to put all that into play early on so that we’re not doing something that we just can’t tour or wouldn’t fit on the stage.”
Logistically, taking a production to the Wheeler does have its challenges. The last performance of “The Glorious Ones” at the New Space Theater was more than a month ago, and it came just before finals week and winter break for the students.
“I made sure that they were trying to stay current on the show and keep it in their heads,” Moore said. “Then we will have had five rehearsals to kind of pick it back up and get it current again. They’re not all full-fledged runs. Sometimes it’s just sitting and working on certain musical numbers. The nice thing is it’s given us a chance to fix a couple of things. After things settled on the last run, we had a couple of moments we just wanted to finesse.”
Moore said at the end of the day, there are a few reasons he started this collaboration with the Wheeler and wants to see it continue. First, and most importantly, it gives the students experience in a new space and with a new set of professionals.
“I think that in truly educating somebody, you give them the opportunity to work with as many different people and as many varying experiences as possible,” Moore said. “I’m not one of those that says, ‘You have to learn my way, and this is how it works, and I’m the only one that knows.’ I don’t believe that. I believe that the way we grow is by having the opportunity to work in different venues and work with different people.”
Moore also understands the long-term value of networking. Students don’t just build rapport with the Wheeler staff and then never see them again. After “Amadeus” went to the Wheeler last year, Moore said his students were called on to work as crew members for other productions at the opera house. This is how the Wheeler benefits from the partnership, according to Gordon Wilder, the opera house’s co-production manager.
“If you don’t get students and young people excited about theater, you don’t create those people who will eventually be picking up the standard,” Wilder said. “Also, we just enjoy it. I’m in this business because I enjoy it, and it’s fun to see the spark of interest in a young person’s eyes. People taught me when I was coming up, and so it’s always good to pay it back. I hope one of these days, one of these students might work at the Wheeler.”
Moore has always seen collaboration and networking as vital parts of educating CMC theater students, not just with this Wheeler partnership. Because Sopris Theatre Company productions involve community members as well, who likely have ties to other theater companies throughout the valley, the opportunities for students to act and work as crew members expand.
“These students have mentors within the community, and they also have an opportunity to branch out: We have four current and former students who are in ‘Hamlet’ or working on ‘Hamlet’ at Thunder River,” Moore said. “That’s important. I love to see that we’re more of a valley and less a bunch of different communities. Maybe that’s just me, but I just think that we’re all in it together. That makes for a very valuable educational experience.”
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