When was the last time that you saw a show? I’m not talking about the tragedies, dramas and farces that are shown on the evening news, or the latest blockbuster at the cinema. I’m talking about a real, live theater production with costumes, sets and actors, all performed without digital enhancement or fourth takes. Colorado is packed with venues, from world-renowned amphitheaters to state-of-the-art performance halls. And, though the big names may get a lot of attention, some of Colorado’s best venues are on the petite side.
Whether your taste runs to the original and avant-garde or you like nothing better than to see a new interpretation of a classic, there’s a theater to suit your fancy. From gems in the heart of Denver to destination venues in the mountains, here are smaller theaters whose size is inversely proportional to their entertainment.
There’s no shortage of theatrical creativity in Denver. At Buntport Theater Company in the Santa Fe Arts District, all performances are created by the players, collaboratively, and often incorporate audience suggestions for their original material and wacky takes on classics. Go for an evening of laughs. For cutting-edge performances that challenge audiences and ignite conversations, explore the offerings at Curious Theatre Company, which often features work by female playwrights, playwrights of color and playwrights from the LGBTQ community. At University of Denver’s Newman Center for Performing Arts, groundbreaking performances are presented through dance, music and even puppets. And in Boulder, The Catamounts create “theatre for the adventurous palate,” presenting regional premiers as well as the original FEED series, which combines the best things in life: cuisine, libations and live performances.
Speaking of the best things in life, traditional dinner theater is not dead. For a quintessential “dinner and a show” evening, check out BDT Stage (which was formerly Boulder Dinner Theater) in Boulder and the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown. Both boast an impressive schedule of well-known shows (mostly musicals) and though it’s okay for your feet to be tapping throughout the performance, leave the singing to the wait staff who literally perform double duty as performers.
Some of the best small theaters are discovered in the heart of a community, like the Evergreen Players. Celebrating their 61st season, the cast of the Evergreen Players includes both professionals and amateurs with a diverse season including musicals, drama and even improvisation. On Main Street in Historic Downtown Littleton, the Town Hall Arts Center packs a big experience punch, producing musicals and comedies in addition to hosting musical performances. For a gem with history, head to the John Hand Theater. Located inside the historic Lowry Air Force Base Fire Station (performances take place where firetrucks once resided), the theater is home to both Firehouse Theater Company and Spotlight Theatre Company.
On the larger side, Parker and Arvada are holding their own when it comes to spectacular venues. The PACE Center located in Parker has 536 seats in the Mainstage theater in addition to an art gallery, dance studio and outdoor musical playground. The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities has grown in its more than 40-year tenure to become one of the nation’s largest multidisciplinary arts centers, devoted to all aspects of the arts including theater, music and dance. In Colorado Springs, the 400-seat SaGaJi Theatre hosts the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company in addition to concerts, film festivals, dance performances and other entertainment.
If you think that ski towns only focus on snow, the number of creative venues in the mountains may surprise you. Though they require a bit more effort to attend, these theaters more than make up for it with charm and views, to say the least. Take, for example, the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre, which has been entertaining audiences since the summer of 1972. Professionals and locals alike have graced the stage in productions that range from cabaret shows to holiday classics. Backstage Theater in Breckenridge, located in a recently renovated historic building in the heart of town, was founded in 1974 and is the longest-serving nonprofit organization in Summit County. Its year-round programming includes musicals, comedy and performances for and by children.
In Eagle County, the Vilar Performing Arts Center is the place for performance, hosting approximately 150 events each year ranging from comedy and film to jazz and rock n’ roll. For the newest venue in Summit County, check out the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center in Silverthorne, which is the home of the Lake Dillon Theatre Company and has not one but three performing arts spaces. And be sure to mark your calendars for the 2018 season at Theatre Aspen, which only presents performances during the summer due to its spectacular outdoor location next to the river in the heart of Rio Grande Park.
From brand-new construction to theaters that have been regaling audiences for decades, from avant-garde to comfortingly classic, there are enough small theaters that deliver big performances to have your calendar booked for months in advance. So, take a page from Shakespeare and infuse your world with a bit more stage.
717 Lipan Street, Denver
*no set location – performances take place at various venues
1080 Acoma St., Denver
2344 E. Iliff Ave., Denver
5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
4747 Marketplace Dr., Johnstown
6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada
30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs
27608 Fireweed Dr., Evergreen
7653 E. 1st Place, Denver
20000 Pikes Peak Ave. Parker
2450 W. Main St., Littleton
121 S. Ridge Street, Breckenridge
403 2nd St., Crested Butte
460 Blue River Pkwy., Silverthorne
110 E. Hallam St., #126, Aspen
68 Avondale Ln., Beaver Creek
Katie Coakley is a freelance writer based in Denver covering travel, beer and outdoor adventure. She prefers comedy over tragedy and misses the days when she tread the boards.
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