Curtain up on revitalized Telluride Repertory Theatre

Curtain up on revitalized Telluride Repertory Theatre

Kicker: 2009 season features “The Sound of Music” and “Taming of the Shrew”

When the New York Shakespeare Festival staged its adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” the director had Petruchio and Kate go toe-to-toe against the backdrop of the Wild West. Coincidently, the misogynistic romp opened on Broadway in July 1990 at almost exactly the same time a new theatre company was born in a small Western town that had long ago shed its chaps and buckskin – save for a few crusty old goats and cowboy wannnabes.

Nineteen years later, in June, 2009, the Telluride Repertory Theatre plans to mount its version of the sassy battles of the sexes, reinserting a linchpin in the town’s summer entertainment calendar: Free Shakespeare in the Park.

Only rather than Town Park, the Rep’s new board hopes to mount its production in Elks Park, as in the bad old days.

Under the direction of acting chair Robert Weatherford, the brand new Rep board plans to aggressively seek strategic alliances. The Rep hopes to share the stage with the Telluride Wine Festival, whose 28th annual event is scheduled the same weekend as “Shrew.” The potential collaboration should prove robust since wine flowed throughout the Bard’s prose. (In “Richard III,” Richard had his assassins drown Prince Clarence in a vat of the grape. Prince Hal and the lads at the Boar’s Head favored sherry.)

The hope is that members of the Telluride Dance Academy will provide the pre-seat warm-up.

“In the early 1990s, when I was the CCASE board chair, we realized the value of maximizing the obvious synergies among local nonprofits,” said Weatherford. “The Rep and the Telluride Choral Society have always been an obvious fit, which is why the Choral Society’s artistic director, Dr. David Lingle sits on our board today. And why school board president Lynda Tueller and rep co-founder,
middle school/high school drama teacher Angela Watkins, are also part of our new team: the idea is to include more young people in our productions.”

(The Rep’s spring musical is “The Sound of Music.)

Since its inception, its no-miss formula  – marrying the art, high spirits, and inventiveness of classic Broadway and off-Broadway with local talent – has put The Rep at the top of the list of popular nonprofits.

Whatever challenges The Rep has faced were located the back office, never on stage: The only continuous Rep participant, including five years on the board, now the secretary, has been actress/musician Bobbie Shaffer  – otherwise The Rep has been reborn more times than Dumbledore’s phoenix.  This incarnation may be different, because Weatherford seems to have identified and fixed the problem, having organized his dream team to play to everyone’s strengths.

“Other than for the brief, halcyon period when Robin McKee was at the helm – she moved back to California to be a full time mom – we found ourselves asking artists to run the operation. There is now a clear division between church and state: artists are making artistic decisions and business people are raising money and minding the shop.”

Rep co- founder-turned- documentary filmmaker Suzan Beraza Boling joins former board chair and Rep star Jade Graham (Roxie in “Chicago”) to make up the artistic advisory committee.
Former Rep board chair Tom Hess has returned to the fold to work with Dylan Brooks, who performed with The Rep as a child, and newbies Mark Westman and Janet Kask on business essentials. Heads of young families, Westman and Kask represent the changing face of Telluride.

Simultaneous looking backward to strength and forward to a new paradigm, the new and improved Rep board encompasses the past, present, and future of our town. Continuity and vision should prove to be a win-win for local actors and the community at large.

“I have come to accept, even love the fact that the Rep is a living thing, with a mind of its own,” said Graham. “Admittedly at times it has behaved like an adolescent with growing pains, but ultimately it is greater and stronger than any one person or set of people. I am excited to now have two founders back in the mix: Angela on the board and Suzan on the artistic advisory committee with me. Both ladies still have the passion they had at the start of The Rep, but now they also have perspective: they know what worked and what did not.”

What has worked includes the Show & Tell Reading Series, designed by McKee years ago as a low-budget way to bring contemporary theatre to local audiences and allow would-be thespians to try their hands at acting – but with the safety net of a script in hand.

The ACTions tour, a program designed to expose young people, throughout Southwestern Colorado to the classics as well as new work, will also continue.

“I always tell my friends outside our box canyon that Telluride represents is best of both worlds: we have the small-town advantage of a tight community and the big city advantage of a rich cultural economy,” said Beraza. “Sure, The Rep has experienced ups and downs – who hasn’t?  –  but when I was approached by Robert, Jade, and our administrative manager Lutz Florczak, I was struck by everyone’s passion and commitment and decided I had to climb back onto the train.”

Full steam ahead…

For further information about how to get involved, call 970-728-4539.

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