Friday Night Footlights: How Theater Bonds a Colorado Town
Nowadays, a permanent workforce of eight hot air balloons for an average of 90 employees and contract artists from April to September. Each summer, Creede Rep stages five complete productions (covers and a good number of premieres) in its two venues, as well as a children’s program, a cabaret, improvisations and staged readings of new plays.
The theater, which uses actors from Equity for its major productions, has an annual budget of $ 1.3 million, sells more than 25,000 tickets per season, and offers programming to 37,000 students, mostly through outreach tours to rural and underserved communities in the South West.
It is financially a heavyweight, both as an employer and as a contributor to the tax base. But it is also an emotional anchor whose absence was deeply felt in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic brought matters to an end.
“Without the theater,” said Scott Lamb, a county commissioner, “it just wasn’t summer.”
At least 2021 has returned to semi-normality: there are three plays instead of the usual five, with actors of one or two actors, and they are performed outdoors on a hill next to the cemetery, with a show for children. Cabaret shows and “Boomtown,” an improvisational show, take place in a tent at the Creede Hotel. (Masks are only required in the theater lobby, which houses the ticket office.)
The outdoor setting makes the theater and the mountains of Colorado seem like one. During my visit, it was hard not to be overwhelmed by the vision of a simple scene framed by stunning cliffs and rolling hills, with spectators sitting on blankets or folding chairs in “boxes” drawn in white lines. on the grass.
Sets, props, and lights were stored in containers parked near the aisle after each show, leaving only a bare platform in a field. It was as if the theater couldn’t bring itself to interfere with nature for very long.
A story of boom, then bust
With all of that in mind, the origin story of Creede Rep seems even more unlikely, a half-century odyssey fueled by fierce optimism, capable persistence, and disparate people discovering how to live together.
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