New artistic director puts Breckenridge Backstage Theatre back in the limelight
Sitting down for a Q&A with the audience following a recent performance, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s new artistic director couldn’t keep the self-described “theater nerd” from coming out.
During the callback, Nathan Autrey was thoughtful, articulate and deeply fascinated with the play and all things theater, as the audience posed questions of him and the cast from “Boeing, Boeing.” Together, they covered everything from plot and character development to overarching principals of the performing arts, and the audience seemed to eat it up.
“I actually think I like it better,” Autrey said of an actress reinventing her character for the play. “I think it kind of changed the relationships around her. It’s just little choices like that, that transform things.”
But the actors and actresses aren’t the only ones transforming Backstage Theatre.
Autrey came into the position with the nonprofit, community theater on Oct. 22 after his predecessor’s abrupt resignation last August. With only two days on the job before holding his first auditions, Autrey had little time to get settled into the role before the curtains came up on November’s season-opener.
“My first day, I actually pitched an entire season,” he recalled.
But to his credit, the new artistic director has hit the stage running by most accounts, and his work has been picking up some strong reviews along the way as well.
“This small town theater production delivers an evening of bright wit and constant laughs, more than worthy of a Broadway stage,” wrote Shauna Farnell, a critic for On Stage Colorado.
But don’t believe the pundits, as Farnell’s assessment has been seconded by Jim Anderson, who’s been volunteering with Backstage Theatre and attending its shows since moving to Summit County in July 2017.
“I’ve seen it twice, and it is very well done,” he said of the satirical play based on a French comedy made famous in the 1960s. “It’s a very tight performance. It’s a classic farce, and I think it’s hilarious.”
Set in the apartment of a man who has three fiancés, all flight attendants with different airlines, the play opened Feb. 28 to a sold-out audience and got a standing ovation. The response was no less complimentary after the March 8 performance, when Autrey and the cast sat down in plain clothes after the show for the free-flowing chat with the audience.
“I think Nathan is doing an outstanding job,” said Anderson, who in addition to building sets as a volunteer also landed a role in last summer’s children’s production of “Annie.”
So far, Autrey has directed three plays with Backstage Theatre. Speaking with the man who has come to love Breckenridge’s passion for the performing arts — even saying it’s on par with New York — it sounds like Autrey’s only getting started. In fact, he’s has already pitched the next season.
“When searching for our new artistic director, I knew we wanted to bring in someone with an MFA in directing and the expertise to oversee all of the artistic elements of the theatre,” said Backstage Theatre’s executive director Debbie Trevino.
“Nathan is exceptionally talented and his dedication to his artistry is an inspiration,” she continued. “In the short time that Nathan has been here he has expanded our season and brought a fresh approach to our programing. This summer, for example, he will be producing ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and bringing Shakespeare to the Backstage Theatre.”
Autrey said he’s based his plan for the 2019-20 season on trying to watch the people in the audience this season, and he hopes to remain audience-centered and produce shows that locals want to see.
Providing a taste of what’s to come, Autrey revealed Backstage Theatre will open the 2019-20 season with “Sweeney Todd.” Additionally, he said, Backstage Theatre has already gotten permission to open in October, about a month earlier than it has in previous years. Meanwhile, Backstage Theatre’s current season will wrap up in September.
Efforts are also underway to expand the children’s theater programming this summer, including lengthening all of the children’s theater workshops.
“The more plays you do, the better you get even if it’s small roles,” Autrey said of his reasons for wanting to facilitate added opportunities for local youth.
One of the summer’s kids camps comes from a playwright who reached out to Backstage Theatre, said Backstage Theatre’s new associate artistic director Cara Janes, who will be leading a lot of the children’s programming.
“It’s actually a take on ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ and kind of introduces kids to those characters,” without hitting them with the full-blown play, which Janes agreed might be a little too much for the youngsters. The theater is also starting some skill-based children’s theater camps that will bring in specialty coaches and teachers to work on specific forms of theater, like improvisation, vocals and commedia dell’arte.
For the older age groups, Janes said, Backstage Theatre is creating a new series of classes that focus on bridging the gap between children’s theater and any teenagers who might want to pursue theater in college or as a career.
Realizing what it takes to get into a college theater program, Janes said that students coming out of high school will need an audition portfolio with a professional headshot and resume, a comedic monologue and a dramatic monologue, and several different songs that showcase their full vocal range, just to name a few of the items that will be required for college and covered in the workshops for teens.
“A lot of these skills, we’re going to put them in concrete trainings so (the teenagers) are as prepared as they can be if they want to do (theater) in the future,” Janes said.
Registration is now open for Backstage Theatre’s summer camps and workshops. For more about the remainder of Backstage Theatre’s 2018-19 season, volunteering with the nonprofit or its opportunities for children and teens, go to BackstageTheatre.org.
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