Lake Dillon Theatre Company director has held position for 11 years
Over the past decade, Chris Alleman has defined entertainment for the Lake Dillon Theatre Company. As producing artistic director, he has worked to expand the theater’s size, reach and worth, starting as its single staff member working with a small budget following through to shape what is today a million-dollar organization with a team of staff members. The theater regularly puts on big productions, including musicals, which have pulled in awards from various sources.
The road to Summit County
Unlike many who go into show biz, being involved in theater was not something Alleman had planned since childhood. In fact, he focused more on the athletic side of things and was offered a scholarship to play college basketball in Kansas after high school.
He refused that offer, instead attending university in his home state of Oklahoma, working toward a degree in education, with the intention of becoming an athletic coach. He was about halfway through when everything changed.
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“As part of my degree, I had to take a humanities course and my advisor at the time suggested that I take introduction to theater,” Alleman said. “So I did, and I was hooked from there on. I changed my major a couple of weeks later. It was one of those life-affirming moments.”
Alleman decided to keep working on a degree in education, but now with a focus in performance theater rather than athletics.
While he acted in a variety of plays, Alleman found his true passion on the directing side of things.
“I thought, ‘You know what, this is what I need to be doing,’” he said.
After completing his undergrad, Alleman moved to Texas and earned his master’s degree in theater from Texas A&M University-Commerce. He then accepted a fellowship from Texas Tech University for his Ph.D.
A year into that, however, Alleman came upon another realization.
“I realized that academic theater wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he said, so he quit the program and started looking for other theater-related opportunities. It wasn’t long afterward that he answered a job ad for a theater company in a small town in the Rocky Mountains.
“I applied for the position in September of 2002 and within 10 days I was up here interviewing and then two weeks after that I was moving up here,” Alleman said of his introduction to Summit County. “It was a very fast transition.”
Despite the speed of it all, Alleman is convinced it was a good decision and has enjoyed all aspects of Summit County, both on and off the stage.
Life in the mountains
As the Lake Dillon Theatre Company expanded, Alleman’s partner, Joshua Blanchard, also became involved, now serving as the executive director.
“I never thought of it was something I was doing; I always thought of it as something that we were doing,” Alleman said of Blanchard. The two met in college and moved to Summit County together when Alleman took the job. “He’s been an intricate part of this organization as much as I have.”
Lately, Alleman and Blanchard have taken on another new project together — 5-month-old Lincoln, the baby boy they adopted this spring.
“It’s wonderful,” said Alleman, his tone softening whenever he speaks about the baby.
The two also enjoy taking advantage of outdoor opportunities, skiing, running, playing tennis. Last year they traveled to complete seven half-marathons in different states.
They also see a lot of plays, catching more than 55 in 2012 alone. While the idea is to relax and enjoy the entertainment, Alleman said it’s often hard for him to turn off his director’s brain.
“You can’t help looking at something you see critically to see what’s going well and what’s not going well, and would we be able to do this show in our place?” he said.
He reads a lot of plays in his spare time, both for work and for pleasure, and the same thing happens.
“Reading plays is certainly fun and entertaining. I’ll pick up a play to read because I hear it’s a great story, but since it’s my career and it’s in my blood, I’m always looking at it as maybe this is something we can do. That thought is always there,” he said.
Planning the program
Taking the Lake Dillon Theatre Company from its small origins to its prestigious heights today wasn’t easy, but Alleman said the formula is simple.
“You create good art, you build a strong board of directors and you have to go out and ask for money,” he said with a laugh. “Those are the three things that you have to do, and if you are successful at those three things, the organization will (be successful).”
By working hard on the quality of the theater, Alleman has secured the other two aspects.
Board member Jack Rouse is one of the many who have been drawn in.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to join the board was I was so incredibly impressed with his leadership, his vision and his hard work,” he said of Alleman.
Rouse is no stranger to good theater. He splits his time between Colorado and the east coast, particularly New York, and is on the board of various theater groups.
“Very few of them do it as well as he does,” he said. “I’ve seen productions here that rival productions I’ve seen anywhere else in the country.”
Much of that success comes not only from Alleman’s talent but his personality, Rouse added. “He’s a real human being, which is rare in the world of theater. There’s no diva, there’s no star syndrome.”
Coming up with just the right production program, for instance, takes a great deal of Alleman’s time. Each time he wants to get it perfect, not an easy feat.
“You just read, read and read and you find plays that speak to you. You find plays that will speak to the community, you find plays that will reach a broad audience,” he said. “It’s all about diversity and making sure you provide variety.”
He does his best to bring in a mix of well known and lesser-known titles, trusting that the audience will, in turn, trust him to give them a good show. He particularly loves the big productions and musicals.
“That’s really one of our signatures, taking a big musical like Kiss of the Spider Woman or Hair or Chicago and producing it in our very intimate space and making it successful,” he said. “It’s really one of the things that we’re good at.”
Others agree. Kiss of the Spider Woman, for example, won six different awards in 2012 from a variety of organizations.
That musical was one that made an impression on Rouse, who admits that at first he didn’t have high expectations for a theater in a small mountain town.
“There’s something wonderful about realizing how wrong you can be,” he said, “because I was totally wrong in my pre-judgment of that theater.”
Eye on the horizon
While he’s pleased with his success, Alleman’s eye, as always, is on the future. He’s excited for the next year’s upcoming performances, which will be announced within the next week. As far as his wish list goes, “I’ve always wanted to direct a Tennessee Williams play,” he said, adding that the American playwright is one of his favorites.
Alleman also said he’s looking forward to many more years in Summit County.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful place to live and this community is very welcoming and very open and you just feel good about the people here,” he said. “It’s just been wonderful.”
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