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Three crackin’ good yarns: Creede Rep launches 56th season with fairy tale, an epic and love letters

Creede Repertory Theatre will open for the season Friday. (Courtesy)

After going dark in 2020 because of COVID-19, Creede Repertory Theatre is launching Operation Outdoor Theatre 2021. A full schedule of plays, plus improv comedy and a new cabaret, is on deck.

2020 was an “unprecedentedly difficult year – the most challenging time CRT has faced in our 56-year history,” said Artistic Director John DiAntonio. “Even though our entire industry stopped, CRT has kept moving forward, taking this time to create a new five-year strategic plan and prepare for our first ever outdoor season.”

CRT’s summer season opens formally Friday, with American playwright Ken Ludwig’s poignant play based on his parent’s love-letter courtship during World War II. On Saturday, CRT will launch two contemporary adaptations of classics. “An Iliad” retells Homer’s epic of the Trojan War through the lens of the 21st century. “Red Riding Hood” is a fast-paced tour-de-force for two actors with a distinctive modern sheen.

“Dear Jack, Dear Louise” had its American premiere in Washington, D.C., on its famed Arena Stage in 2019. Loosely based on the correspondence between Ludwig’s parents, an army doctor first stationed in Medford, Oregon, and an aspiring actress in New York City. Ironically, the two were introduced to each other by their fathers. At Creede, company stalwarts Caitlin Wise and Graham Ward portray the long-distance lovers.

Like Ludwig’s play, Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson’s 2012 adaptation of “The Iliad” is being performed across the country for its remarkable relevance to a time of violence worldwide. In this solo show, a traveler with a suitcase (Lavour Addison) tells the story of an ancient conflict fated to repeat itself many times through various prisms, mixing the language of today with the poetry of the past.

If you go

WHAT: The 56th season of Creede Repertory Theatre, featuring “An Iliad,” “Red Riding Hood” and “Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” plus “Boomtown,” and a cabaret at Creede Hotel.

WHEN: Friday to Sept. 4.

Where: All CRT shows will be outdoors at Seime Park above Creede.

Tickets: $60 per box up to four people.

More information: For schedule and ticket information, call (719) 658-2540 or visit www.creederep.org.

Allison Gregory’s “Red Riding Hood” was commissioned by the Seattle Children’s Theatre and is family friendly as well as distinctively contemporary in its pace and style. Two characters, Delivery Person (Alexandra Bates) and Wolfgang (Matthew Tyler Horn), carry the drama forward. The CRT Content Advisory cautions: “descriptions of fantasy gore, some cartoon-style violence, plus a glorification of life in the performing arts.” Sounds like the right vehicle for direction by DiAntonio.

In addition to the three major summer offerings, the improvisational high jinks of “Boomtown” continues late night in the outdoor space at the Creede Hotel. Company actors linger to stage an evening of improv. Now in its 15th season, “Boomtown! In the Wild!” is its renewed title, and tickets can be purchased early online or at the door.

“Cabaret at the Creede Hotel” is a new program this year. It’s a dinner package Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Seasoned CRT players Christy Brandt and Annie Butler headline the show with regular drop-in guests. The Content Advisory warns that the cabaret “may include lots of Broadway tunes,” so be advised.

If you plan wisely, you can see three plays plus the improv and cabaret in one trip. Later in the summer, Aug. 27-28, the ninth annual Headwaters New Play Festival will stage virtual readings available online.

“There’s palpable excitement in the air,” DiAntonio said. “I imagine there was a similar feeling during the summer of 1966 before Creede Repertory Theatre even had its name, when it was simply known as: Operation Summer Theatre.”

And there’s always Nature’s bonus for traveling to Creede – the drive over Wolf Creek Pass.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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