Community profile: The show must go on
Brendan Cochran continues to create art through theater
Brendan Cochran was in his mother’s womb when he technically first entered the Roaring Fork Theater community.
“I have known Brendan since right before he was born,” said Brad Moore, staff member and adjunct faculty for the theater program at Colorado Mountain College. I directed his mother in a show when she was pregnant with him. So I was Brendan’s, if not the first director, then among the first,” Moore said.
With show biz running through his veins, it almost seems like Cochran was destined to help lead the theater community in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Cochran’s parents were heavily involved in local theater even before he became a Glenwood Springs resident himself. While those two and his sister were into the acting and directing aspects of stage productions, Cochran at first leaned into the behind the scenes elements.
“I kind of liked the tech side of things. I was running sound and lights for CMC shows when I was in fourth or fifth grade. When they couldn’t find anyone else they dragged me into the booth,” Cochran said.
His appreciation for artistic and creative expression of any kind was always strong, but it was only after he returned to Glenwood Springs, after graduating with a degree in Anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, that he decided to dive into a formal education on the performing arts at CMC.
“It was funny, when he was in class he was older than most of the students … It was really fun watching the other students just hold him in awe and be so impressed with the work he did and hope that they could live up to sort of his standards,” Moore said.
In the last five or six years Cochran was involved in about 20 different shows, whether it was in an acting or directing role. He’s currently working toward his goal of getting an MFA or PhD. in Theater with the hopes of honing his skills even further and perhaps someday working as a teacher or professor. Cochran said actually attending a program in the near future may be difficult due to the challenges posed by COVID-19.
“It’s really hard to study theater in depth when you can’t actually do theater…a lot of (traditional theater practices) came to a screeching halt at the start of this whole thing …and it’s kind of come to the point where we’re…realizing this isn’t going away fast so we might as well be doing something creative,” Cochran said.
Moore agreed that the pandemic flipped the theater community on its head but also acknowledged safety guidelines have forced everyone to focus on different elements of their craft with more subtleties that may not hold the same weight in a stage show as a zoom production.
“I thought ‘OK, how are we going to do a season in the middle of a global pandemic?’ We want to do theater but we can’t do theater the way we know it,” Moore said.
Cochran directed a show called “Rogues Gallery” during COVID-19 that was a series of nine monologues and streamed for an audience on Zoom. He said the lack of an energy exchange with the audience made for a strange ambience that wasn’t entirely like directing a film or a play, but something of its own nature.
“Obviously you know it’s been very hard…. What it’s really forced us to do is get more creative which is kind of fun…It’s been the silver lining, it’s forced us to find new ways to do the things we love,” Cochran said.
Reflecting on past shows and imagining what’s in store
A shared high point in the mentorship between Cochran and Moore was when they acted as father and son in a production written by local playwright Kristen Carlsen called “Unmarried in America.” The show delved into the Prop. Eight trials in California about legalizing same-sex marriage and Cochran said it was one of his first realizations of the impact theater could have.
“I think…that was one of the first ‘aha’ moments I had in theater where I was like ‘oh this has the power to potentially affect change, to really reach people and say something important,’” Cochran said.
Moore also remembered the show vividly, in particular, one scene where he would hold Cochran’s face in his hands on stage, as an evangelical minister addressing his son who is struggling with his sexuality.
“There was a moment where I would take his face in my hands and look him in the eye and say ‘you’re my son.’ It’s a particularly difficult moment because… basically the minister is saying to his son ‘don’t make me choose between you and my faith,’” Moore said.
When Cochran considers the future of the theater community in Roaring Fork Valley he said he admires the works performed by fellow actors and directors alike. He said the talent in some shows he’s seen locally rivals big-city productions he’s attended outside of Colorado.
“I’m always kind of blown away by the level of talent that is contained in this valley…(I) think with the tourism industry in Glenwood it would be cool to see more professional theater develop there and more opportunities for (the) community,” Cochran said.
For now, Cochran plans to maintain his involvement with theater however he can until it’s time to take the next step in his education and path as a performing arts professional.
“I think that he’s got a great career ahead of him and I am so supportive of everything that he does,” Moore said.
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