Pedersen’s eccentricity helps sell out "Eleemosynary’ |

Pedersen’s eccentricity helps sell out "Eleemosynary’

DILLON – Suzanne Pedersen plays an eccentric grandmother in Lake Dillon Theatre’s performance of “Eleemosynary,” but some people might say she’s a bit eccentric in real life.

The Breckenridge resident described herself as an overgrown ski bum who stopped in Summit County in 1966 on her way to Vail and never left.

The school district hired her on the spot in 1966 as a fourth-grade teacher, even though she wasn’t accredited, because the school wasn’t accredited at that time either, she said. The following year, when the school gained accreditation, she began teaching her true passion: art, speech and drama. She got married in 1969 and opened a dress shop in 1979 after disagreeing with the district on tenure.

After 12 years of marriage, she and her husband had a son, and in 1989, Pedersen closed her dress shop, the Bristlecone Collection, to spend more time raising her son.

When the Backstage Theatre opened in 1972, Pedersen was delighted. Since then, she has performed in more than 40 shows, from melodramas to one-woman shows, to musicals.

“I’ve loved every minute here, especially because we have so many talented people up here,” Pedersen said. “It seems like it’s always an exciting experience to meet people through theater.”

The latest actresses Pedersen has had the pleasure of working with are Teri Swartz, who plays her granddaughter, Echo, and Kathleen Trambley (Artie) in “Eleemosynary.”

“Kathleen Trambley and Teri Swartz have just been such a wonderful team to work with. This (play) is not about a lead role. This is an ensemble piece. These women have blown me away with their acting,” Pedersen said.

Trambley just moved to Boulder to pursue her acting career, and high school senior Swartz plans to major in English and theater in college. But, they aren’t the only impressive actresses – Pedersen has quite a following.

“My friends all said, “This is the best role we’ve seen you in,'” she said. “And it’s not just a story for chicks. It touches everybody, because we all have family, and we all have memories. That’s what makes good novels, good plays, good movies – something that speaks to you and touches your heart, and I think this play does that. It speaks to the real dignity and the divinity of the human spirit – how we’re all children of God. Nobody has it all figured out. You can have such a positive approach to life if you let yourself go there.”

“Eleemosynary,” which closes Sunday, portrays the story of three generations of fiercely intelligent women who are unique but share a common burden of thinking they must do something extraordinary, director Chris Willard said. In their search for individuality, however, they lose sight of one of the most important things in life – love.

“”Eleemosynary’ means the giving of alms, being charitable,” Willard said. “(The play shows) how they learn to be charitable toward each other.”

The story of the three women’s lives unfolds as each character re-enacts key memories, spanning from 1958 to 1985.

“I love that line when Echo says, “No one ever failed me, not (mom), not grandma,'” Pedersen said. “I think so often we feel that failure, or we lack what we have to be that right kind of mother. Those are beautiful words to hear from a teen-ager.”

As the play has run for the past month, the actresses have grown closer and drawn out the subtleties in their characters, and the audience has added its own energy to the family dynamics.

“Since the opening, we have come to understand our characters more, and so many people have wanted to stay around and talk about these three women and how they are,” Pedersen said. “So many of the audience members said it strikes a chord in their own memories and in their own upbringing and in raising their children. It’s not a barrel of laughter, but there’s plenty of humor in it, like there is in everyday life. It has a tender, sweet sadness. It’s a real human-interest (story). The audiences are touched by that theme of (how) sometimes mothers don’t hit the mark in raising their children, but they become wonderful nurturers as grandparents. It’s something about growing up and allowing your loved ones to be who they are. We can still love each other, even with our faults and failings.”

Pedersen summed up the play’s philosophy by quoting the playwright, Lee Blessing: “S It won’t matter what your circumstances in life are. You’ll be alive in a way few people ever get to be. You will have learned one simple thing – how to embrace yourself. You will learn how to put that before everything else in life.”

The colorful characters learn to embrace themselves and each other in their last three performances this weekend in the intimate setting of the Lake Dillon Theatre. Today’s and Saturday’s shows begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday’s closing performance begins at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children under 12. For more information, call (970) 513-9386.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at

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