Backstage back to the drawing board |

Backstage back to the drawing board

by Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Let the shows begin. Or not.

Backstage Theatre actors and actresses have been rehearsing for three weeks, 3,000 brochures announcing the performances are sitting in racks throughout the county, and now artistic director Jeremy Cole is, once again, trying to find a new place to present his shows.

Cole has cancelled the inaugural “Shakespeare on the Plaza” event slated for July 25 at Main Street Station after learning East-West Partners couldn’t supply a tent that would cover both the stage and the audience for a five-week run of nighttime performances.

It’s one more slap in the face, as far as Cole’s concerned.

It was just over a year ago Vail Resorts officials asked Cole to move the theater operations from the Village at Breckenridge, where it had operated for 21 years. The theater group was given 90 days to vacate the spot so ski area officials could consolidate ski school services that were scattered throughout the base of Peak 9.

The organization transformed into a itinerant troupe of sorts, performing in various locations throughout the county. Breckenridge town officials spent the past year helping the group locate a permanent venue, and eventually purchased Shamus O’Toole’s Roadhouse Saloon on Ridge Street for use as a community center anchored by the Backstage and shared with other nonprofits.

That facility, which is being remodeled, won’t be ready until November. Backstage actors, however, still plan perform “Zorba” Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 at the Riverwalk, as well as “Three Viewings” in October at the Hunt Placer Inn.

According to Cole, Backstage Theatre officials negotiated in February and March with East-West Partners to present Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” on the stage in the plaza of East-West’s new Main Street Station.

Cole said it’s a perfect venue, as it has trees behind the stage and much of the performance takes place in the forest.

“As far as we knew, all was well,” he said. “The only thing left up in the air was whether East-West was going to purchase or rent the tent we’d need for the performance.”

Jack Wolfe, managing partner at East-West, said his company was eager to host the Backstage Theatre, but they weren’t keen on the tent Cole said he needed, which, in addition to being expensive, would cover both the audience and stage – top and sides – to eliminate distractions, contain the sound and keep out the wind and rain.

That kind of tent would appear as if “a spaceship landed,” Wolfe said. “Main Street Station is all about restaurants and retailers, and if you cannot see them … That’s not what we’re trying to do; we want everything to be fully open to the public.”

Wolfe said he told Cole three weeks ago East-West would be willing to provide a smaller tent; Cole contends he learned that June 10, and then only by accident when someone told him they’d heard the performances had been cancelled.

“It was an idea, and we were trying to flesh it out,” Wolfe said of the Shakespeare on the Plaza shows. “But they were already putting the cast together, and we didn’t have anything close to an agreement on it. That one probably went longer than it should have before we decided we couldn’t go forward on it.”

Cole said he understands the financial end of it.

“That’s completely understandable; none of us are made of money – even East-West,” he said. “And we could never afford such a tent ourselves. We’re in our third week of rehearsal – a terrible time to find out that we need to find a new venue.”

Now, he’s scrambling to find a new one.

“We’ve got to find something fast,” Cole said. “Most other venues are booked for the summer. Our strongest lead right now is a conference room at the Village that they’re not using – ironically, where our theater used to be.

“I’m just heart-broken, he added. “I have a wonderful cast – and a large one, at 18 – who are working their tails off to make this show a hit, and now I have to tell them that we’re going to have to adapt the show to a new facility.”

Wolfe said he hopes the Backstage Theatre or other troupes will perform at Main Street Station in the future.

“We were really pleased when they approached us about doing performances on the stage,” he said. “We really wanted to have them down there. They’d be welcome if they’d like to come back and work with us in another form.”

Other events slated for the stage this summer will include children’s theaters on Thursdays and Saturday mornings, National Repertory Orchestra and Breckenridge Music Institute concerts on Thursday nights, an art show in August and Genuine Jazz in July performances.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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