The steady march that led to the start of the Global Mountain Theatre began as all marches do, with baby steps.

Dial it all the way back to 1981, when a remarkable lady named Wendy Brooks figured out a way to help working moms like herself. She started a daycare camp in her own backyard. The initial enrollment was six kids, including Wendy’s son Dylan.

In 1984, Brooks accepted a position with the Telluride Schools to open up the camp idea to a wider population, adding classes for teens, even adults, drawing support from Telluride’s growing talent pool. A public/private partnership engendered programs such as rock climbing, soccer, and theater.

In 1987, Wendy upped the ante in the theater program by recruiting the extravagantly gifted “Echo Sisters,” Sally Davis and Kim Epifano, who arrived on the scene from San Francisco and almost immediately became part of Telluride’s burgeoning artistic community. And, for the past 26 years, that dynamic duo has spent four weeks in an elaborate improv that would put Coltrane to shame.

Sally and Kim’s wonderful theatre program, housed under the Telluride Academy, targets 15 – 25 young people ages 10 – 13 in a drama camp that teaches theater skills for sure, but the life skills learned ( self-confidence, group interaction, etc.) at the Mudd Butts Mystery Drama Camp stick with the kids as they grow up and move on like, well, mud on their butts after that slide down Coronet Creek that engendered the name of the troupe. And in 1993, as good as it gets was not good enough: the Mudd Butts program had to go international.

The recipe Wendy, Sally and Kim hatched was simply elegant: find a village with a school that would like to add an interactive theater intensive to its curriculum,  then find students in the country to host the Telluride kids, a space to practice, and a community in which to perform.

Since Mudd Butts went global, the troupe has traveled to Prague and Nitra, Czechoslovakia, central and south America, the Carribean, Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Bali, India, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. That’s 15 countries, with 4 repeat visits, 19 years of building global friendships and sharing extraordinary experiences with 268 middle and high school students from across America.

Who needs a State Department?

Mudd Butts International was clearly a success story. But it was lopsided. In her infinite wisdom, Wendy decided it was not enough to accept the hospitality of villagers around the world. It was altogether fitting and proper to host and invite the kids who hosted your kids to Telluride.

There were a million knotty logistical reasons why it could not be done. But doing the improbable is what Telluride is all about. Thursday, June 28, the Telluride Academy launches its fourth Global Mountain Theater program.

And that little camp Wendy started oh so many years ago?  The Telluride Academy is one of the region’s signature nonprofits and today hosts 800 young people, who enjoy a wide array of enrichment programs throughout the summer.

To learn the details, click the “play” button and listen to Wendy spelling it out.

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