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Douglas Webster brings big plans to South Park’s high school art program

LESLIE BREFELD
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

FAIRPLAY ” In a town hall meeting forum, set to the play’s directions, South Park High School students, faculty and Park County community members will discuss the 1998 beating death of Matthew Shepard.

New South Park High School music director Douglas Webster and his production class are presenting “The Laramie Project” on Friday and Saturday nights at the high school. Webster described the play as looking into how a small Western town handles large media attention.

“I see a lot of parallels with Fairplay, growing up in Breck,” Webster said, describing Park County as a tight-knit community, but with many different viewpoints.

“If it’s not a good theater piece ” which it is ” it’s at least a great conversation piece,” he said.

And more than just the school is involved in the production. Mayor Fred Boyce and superintendent Chuck Soper have roles in the play that mixes the actors in with the audience. Three Littleton high school students who performed the play recently in their town, are also performers in the play.

“They will bring their experience to the (Park County) cast and share as 18-year-old colleagues what it has meant to them to do (the play) ” and share that energy,” Webster said.

A student from Summit High School will also be in the play and Webster hopes this kind of interaction between Summit and Park counties continues.

“I’m trying to mimic what’s going on in the arts world where cross collaboration is very popular,” Webster said.

Webster, who grew up in Breckenridge and has brought his American Singer Seminars to the town for the last nine years, recently took a gig up in South Park.

His second home in Fairplay led him to the music director position at the high school, which Webster only has for sure for this year. He said he’s making some drastic changes, but that all the programs will be sustainable without him.

A major move Webster has taken is to make the auditorium into a real theatrical venue. A high school parent who is also a master electrician donated 20 hours of time to rewire the auditorium lighting from three positions to eight. They’ve also repainted the auditorium so it works with the lights and have gotten the OK to paint the ceiling as well.

“We’ve truly created a theater ” with full theater lighting in the auditorium that used to be a cafeteria,” he said. Webster described his not-so-hidden agenda in dressing up the school’s auditorium.

“When I moved to town, the mayor Fred Boyce asked me about creating a performing arts space,” Webster said. “I told him there was not an opportunity until a demand was shown by an audience.”

And so in creating a place to perform in town, he is also creating a ” hopefully ” demanding audience.

Webster has created the production class at SPHS and said in it, he teaches what he knows including how to produce events, concerts, memorial services, dances and how to hire a band, or “things you might actually do,” he said.

Webster’s performance resume includes Broadway’s “Les Miserables,” as well as teaching singing, and performing with the Broadway Baritones music group.

He is excited about his new role and the support he’s received from the community.

“I have as much artistic freedom at the high school as when I was a private producer,” Webster said.

With his musical connections, which he describes as “25 years of favors racked up in the country,” Webster wants to start collecting for Fairplay’s program.

He’s already begun with a matching grant challenge which he organized through a private family foundation which supports the arts.

If he can raise at least $3,000 by the time “The Laramie Project” opens this weekend, the foundation will match up to $10,000 for Fairplay’s high school music program.

Webster said they’ve already raised most of it, so he’s confident they will make it.

Other upcoming projects slated for South Park High School include a fashion show collaborating with county businesses and a fully staged version of “The Sound of Music.”

He’s also employed the band, Beyond the Wood, to teach classes and perform for Park County schools. The world music group, which includes his wife Liz Byrd Webster on cello and strings, Paul Butler on winds and Ron Kravitz on percussion, offers interactive workshops and performances to students.

“We’re in this little town with a cache of a popular cartoon, acting as if it were a big school,” Webster said. “I told the kids to lead from their strengths, not their diminished resources.”

Leslie Brefeld can be reached at (970) 668-4626 or lbrefeld@summitdaily.com.

– What: Community collaboration production

– When: Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.

– Where: South Park High School auditorium

– Cost: $5 for adults and $3 for students


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