All the State’s a Stage

Photo: courtesy Theatre Aspen

Photo: courtesy Theatre Aspen

Five Great Theater Companies Outside the Front Range

By Steve Graham

The Colorado Theatre Guild honored the finest Colorado actors, directors and more on July 22 during the 14th annual Henry Awards. Nominees included the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, as well as major suburban draws such as the Aurora Fox Arts Center and the Arvada Center. But some other less famous venues also made the list this year.

On your summer adventures around Colorado, consider spending the night in a small town to see a show at one of these great theater companies up in the mountains (and yeah, we know Colorado Springs, Boulder and other Front Range cities have great theater as well, but we’re celebrating small towns this time around). 

Thunder River Theatre Company

The non-profit Thunder River Theatre Company traveled around Aspen and Glenwood Springs in an 18-wheeler truck for 11 years before settling on a permanent space in downtown Carbondale in 2005. 

The TRTC earned 11 Colorado Theatre Guild nominations, including the top prize, outstanding season for a theatre company. 

Check thunderrivertheatre.com for upcoming events.

Theatre Aspen

Theatre Aspen takes advantage of the stunning views and perfect summer weather in Aspen by staging musicals, cabaret shows and more in Rio Grande Park, along the Rio Grande Trail. The company’s backstory begins with founder Kent Reed in 1983, but the current name and incarnation at the park was created in 2005.

The current season runs through Aug. 17, and includes the classics “Guys and Dolls,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

The company has seven nominations for the state theatre awards, including directing and acting nods.

Miss Holmes. Photo: courtesy Creede Repertory Theatre

Miss Holmes. Photo: courtesy Creede Repertory Theatre

Creede Repertory Theatre

Hidden in the San Juan Mountains, the tiny town of Creede has a 53-year history of professional summer theater. Some local boosters wanted a way to keep folks coming to town after silver mining dried up, so they created the Creede Repertory Theatre. It now stages 7 to 10 plays each summer, and USA Today donned the company “one of the 10 best places to see the lights way off Broadway.” 

Get to Creede in August to catch “Peter and the Starcatcher.” A farcical adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” runs through mid-September, and the theater will stage the world premiere of a new play titled “Hazardous Materials.” 

CRT has been nominated for 6 awards from the Colorado Theatre Guild, including best production of a play and several acting awards. 

Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
Breckenridge claims the oldest year-round theater company on the western slope, dating back to a melodrama staged in Singin’ Sadie’s Saloon in 1974. The Backstage Theatre became Summit County’s first incorporated non-profit in 1976, and it bounced around to several locations over the decades. 

The current theater opened in 2002, and was renovated and expanded in 2016. The company is currently putting on “Into the Woods” at the Breckenridge Theater, and “Totally Red” in the Children’s Theater.

Breckenridge earned five guild nominations, including for directing and acting prizes.

Butte Theater

There’s more than gambling going on in Cripple Creek. The old mining town near Pikes Peak is also home to an inspiring public-private arts partnership. The city government owns and operates the Butte Theatre, and kickstarts each theater season with a $200,000 loan to the Butte Theatre Foundation, which is then repaid by the end of the year.

The foundation expects to be independent by the end of 2020, but we appreciate the creative collaboration. We also look forward to the Butte Theatre’s current productions of “Grease” and “My Partner,” a classic Western melodrama. Later in the season, highlights include “The Andrews Brothers,” a tribute to the Andrews Sisters and the greatest generation, and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.”  

The Butte Theatre got two Colorado Theatre Guild nods for its “Forever Plaid” and “Always … Patsy Cline” productions.