“This is it. This is home,” said Mona Wood Patterson when she first saw a huge underground space in Durango’s Tech Center.
After a quarter century of performing on area stages including those at Fort Lewis College and found spaces around the county, Merely Players has settled on a home. Credit Charles Ford for discovering an underground lair and inviting his company co-founder and wife to take a look.
“When Mona walked in, she immediately said, ‘This is it. This is home,’” Ford said.
Merely Underground is located at 789 Tech Center Drive, across from the Recycling Center, in a complex with Village Auto. Zoned originally as a marijuana grow space, the huge, windowless area is also perfect for theatrical use. Merely Underground easily houses a box office, lobby area, performance venue, tech area and eight separate storage spaces. Walk down a corridor and you’ll see rooms for costumes, props, furniture, a workshop, a green room and rooms titled 2B and Not 2B, to affectionately echo Hamlet’s famous speech.
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, theater lovers are invited to stop by any time for a 20-minute tour. You don’t need a ticket or an RSVP. Just show up. The new ventilation system will be circulating fresh air, but visitors are still asked to wear a mask. Players will take small groups on a guided tour
“After our production of ‘Macbeth’ closed on March 1, 2020, we were ready to start rehearsals for ‘Matilda,’” Wood-Patterson said in an early site interview. ”But because of COVID, we had to cancel the remainder of the season.
“Charles happened to drop off some things near the Transfer Station and saw a For Rent sign. We have always looked for found spaces and pay attention to For Rent signs. So, he stopped and ran into Caden Rezek, a former student. Caden’s family owns the building, and he in turn introduced us to his sister, Brett, the property manager. Their older siblings were in Troupe 1096 at Durango High School.
“Well, Charles toured the space, and when he came home, he said I had to see it.”
Consolidating eight separate storage spaces plus a workshop became the key to deciding on the sprawling underground complex.
“It has an industrial feel – a bit urban,” Wood-Patterson said. “And it’s something different. I know it will work.”
“It was a disaster at first, but Mona saw the possibilities,” Ford said. “It’s really her vision.”
WHAT: Merely Players Open House.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: 789 Tech Center Drive.
MORE INFORMATION: Call 946-7579 or visit www.merelyplayers.us.
Ford started rehabilitating the space with massive amounts of electrical work. When possible, company volunteers packed, transported and unloaded the contents of the eight storage spaces.
The Underground has a front entrance and a rear exit. Wood-Patterson invited four Players to design the four restrooms with different theatrical themes. Designers are: Dallas Padovan, Rebecca Sloan, Heather Howe and Lauren Schaffer. In addition, Liz Gray, Jessica Jane Harris and Mary-Catherine McAlvany designed the dressing rooms and the Green Room.
Check those special features when you are on a tour. The first formal production of the season, “Men on Boats,” opens Oct. 2 and will run through Oct. 16. Season tickets are available at www.merelyplayers.org.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.