Lake Dillon Theatre to go pro
September 24, 2010
In its early days, Lake Dillon Theatre Company benefited from a Broadway touch when Rick Hilsabeck and Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck directed plays and performed in Dillon, in between their stints with the national tour of “Phantom of the Opera.” Now, the theater is taking its New York City vibe further, not only by bringing in accomplished actors from the Big Apple and other cities, but also by aiming toward Small Professional Theatre status.
Since artistic director Chris Alleman began more than eight years ago, he has paved the way to meet board members’ vision to increase the quality of theater in Dillon. Alleman took an “if you build it, they will come” approach.
“You have to provide great art first, then people buy into the organization and mission,” Alleman said. “We never settle. We never say, ‘Oh, that set is OK; it looks good enough,’ and people are starting to recognize that – and starting to recognize it with their checkbooks.”
Over the last 18 months, the company has hired fewer and fewer locals, “not necessarily because of lack of talent,” but more because the company has leaned toward truncated rehearsals, which often means half-day work sessions, to accommodate actors from outside Colorado. Since many locals work during the day, the rehearsal schedules don’t fit, Alleman said.
But that doesn’t mean locals aren’t welcome, or needed.
“There certainly are tons of opportunities for locals to be involved with our organization; it’s just not always on stage,” Alleman said.
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One of the first things Josh Blanchard, the new executive director, intends to institute is a community development program, which will help train locals interested in learning to be a crew member, lighting tech or costume or set designer. Workshops and internships would give them skills “to be involved with something greater than themselves,” Alleman said. They’ve already set a precedent during the summer, training a handful of Summit High School students.
“We’ve looked at successful models for arts organizations in resort communities, and their success lies in community support and involvement,” Blanchard said. “We definitely saw, through the success of the summer repertory, community interest in what’s going on.”
As a small professional theater, Lake Dillon will hire a number of professionals from the Actors’ Equity Association, a labor union that represents actors and stage managers. However, the company can fill the rest of the roles with non-union actors, including locals, Blanchard said.
“We always hold auditions locally, and just because it’s a professional theater doesn’t mean you hire someone who only acts as a profession,” Alleman said.
Still, he doesn’t consider Lake Dillon a community theater and will bring in four or five actors for the winter season, which includes “Doubt,” “[title of show],” “The 39 Steps,” “Boeing, Boeing” and “Seascape.”
To gain professional status, Lake Dillon Theatre Company must jump though a variety of hoops: Professional status depends on specifics such as ticket price, size of house, number of season subscription holders, number of patrons and donors. This season, the company will continue to develop the patron base, and if winter shows sell out, Blanchard and Alleman will extend the number of productions up to eight a week.
“It’s a pledge to the community that we are going to bring you professionals,” Blanchard said. “We have a ways to go, but you have to start somewhere.
“The organization is on a trajectory for something great. We’re poised in Summit County to be a great professional theater destination; it’s an opportunity for the organization to really grow into something big. The possibilities are endless.”