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Arts and Entertainment

What’s a community theater, anyway?

Brenda Macon

The first recorded indoor stage was in the 5th century BC in Athens. It was a rectangular room with seats along all four walls, similar to a black box theater. At the time, the budget must have been low because the first play, “The Persians,” was acted by only one actor and about 50 members of a chorus that ultimately dropped to 12 under the careful direction of Aeschylus. One can only imagine the drama the day of the casting cut. (Check out PBS.org/empires/thegreeks)

Fast forward to 1996 in Durango: the Hockers Motors Building was converted into the home of The Durango Arts Center, a 501(c)3. It was retrofitted to house galleries, classrooms, a dance studio and a 200-seat theater complete with wingspace, a backstage, dressing rooms, offices, space for set builds and costume storage. Sporting a steampunk aesthetic with sprocketed exposed curved rafters, it later became home to the Diamond Circle Melodrama – you can still find its symbol hidden in the railings if you look carefully. As all eras pass, many have come and gone at the DAC. Now it is truly a community space, hosting such events as the beloved Durango Snowdown Follies, Bluegrass Meltdown and the Durango Independent Film Festival. Perhaps you’ve been to Friday Night Improv, Silent Swanson Sundays, or a live play or musical downtown? Then you’ve been a part of the magic.

From Friday night improv and Silent Swanson Sundays, to “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Disney’s High School Musical,” the “Odd Couple,” “The Complete History of America” (abridged) to the 10 Minute PlayFestival and “Rocky Horror Show,” there’s something in it for you.

Durango actor Holden Grace is currently playing the role of the esteemed Lecturer among others in “Reefer Madness, The Musical.”

“This show has been outrageously fun! Getting to play so many characters (no matter how small they are) has been such a fun challenge,” he said. “We can’t stop cracking up backstage from all of the hilarity that everyone brings to this show. I will dearly miss this production when it closes.”

Come see Grace and the other talented cast and crew this final show weekend.

The DAC theater focus is on providing quality community productions as well as educational opportunities. Each year, hundreds of students of all ages discover confidence up on stage, and the multiple merits of being a part of a production in front of a live audience. The young ones may never know the gripping fear of public speaking, which is truly a gift. The adults learn how to move confidently, project their voices, think fast and have fun in the process. A robust year-round scholarship program keeps the programs accessible.

If you just want to dip your toe in the proverbial water of acting, I invite you to try the 24-hour theater: It’s a one-weekend-only immersive experience where a series of short plays go from blank page to full production in 24 hours in front of a live audience. Want to try your hand at improv? DAC board member and local thespian Jeff Graves is bringing in a musical improv classes on the 13th. Pianist Curtis Reynolds will be there to save the day and keep you on tempo. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket? Don’t worry, that might add to the hilarity of it all. We have you covered – come see what your community theater has to offer you.

Have some popcorn and sit back ... see you soon at the DAC.

In the theater
  • “Reefer Madness, The Musical”: 7:30 p.m. March 31 and April 1. 5 p.m. April 2. A story about clean-cut kids who fall prey to marijuana, leading them on a hysterical downward spiral filled with evil jazz music, sex and violence. Last weekend to see this show. Tickets $15/$25.
  • Friday Night Improv: Student Showcase! 7 p.m. April 7. Tickets $10/$15.
  • NEW: Musical Improv Adult Classes with Jeff Graves – Blue Level. 6-8 p.m. Thursdays, April 13, 20 and 27. $75 for three weeks, $50 for students.
Art classes and gallery events
  • 28th annual Creativity Festivity showcasing the artwork of the youths of our community. Free.
  • Shop the Artisan’s Market: Open noon-6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
  • Mud Day Madness: 6:30-8:30 p.m. $325.
  • Figure Drawing with live model: 6-8 p.m. 10 classes, $225.
  • Art of Painting: 10 a.m.-noon. $250.
  • Magical Art & Happiness adult art classes begins April 6: 6-8 p.m. Six weeks, $200.
  • Pots & Pints: Every Friday, 4:30-6 p.m. $30.
  • GOAL/BART: youth leadership intensives begin June 5/12, respectively. $275+
  • Summer camps for theater and visual arts are now open for online registration. Scholarships available.

Questions? Email info@durangoarts.org

Donate, become a member for discounts and to be a patron of the arts, register for classes, buy tickets, and keep in touch at DurangoArts.org and find things fast at https://linktr.ee/durangoartscenter.

Brenda Macon has been executive director of Durango Arts Center since 2018.