Exploring the Dreamers, Magic Makers and the Legacies They Leave Through Theater
June 2, 2023
Little Theatre of the Rockies (LTR) boasts three theater productions that explore the themes of hope, discovery and overcoming obstacles in its nine-week run as it enters its 89th summer season.
Founded in 1934, UNC’s professional summer stock theater is the longest standing one west of the Mississippi.
Led by artistic director and alumna Megan Van De Hey ‘99, LTR’s 2023 season will stage three exciting productions tick, tick…BOOM! June 8-18, “The Quest for Don Quixote” July 6-16 and Pippin July 27-30. The shows take a close look at the dreamers, the magic makers and the legacies they leave.
“I wanted this season to be filled with a little bit more hope and discovery,” Van De Hey said. “I think we need this right now. This isn’t to say that there isn’t a little darkness in each show, but the overall theme is hope and discovery—and overcoming obstacles.”
The theme resonates with audiences and students alike, she explains, especially as many student cast members prepare to go out into the professional arts world. In each production, a character who is stuck as they pursue their dream encounters a little magic along the way to eventually leave behind an important legacy.
The autobiographical musical tick, tick…BOOM! tells the story of struggling artist Jonathan Larson, the composer of the iconic, Tony-award winning rock musical Rent, who is trying to compose a significant and lasting work but keeps running into obstacles along the way. Ultimately, he holds onto his dream despite his and his friends’ struggles, and his big breakthrough happens.
Made popular by the 2021 Netflix version directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, tick, tick…BOOM! has just three people in the cast including Musical Theatre senior Andrea Camacho, who plays the role of Susan.
“This production has been really inspiring to be part of,” Camacho said. “It has taught me that dreams are what move you, not what people think your dreams should be.”
The second production of the season, The Quest for Don Quixote, is a twist on the classic Man of La Mancha tale about Don Quixote De La Mancha and his sidekick Sancho Panza. In this modern retelling of the original story by Cervantes, a writer, suffering from writer’s block and overwhelmed by a fast-approaching deadline, struggles through the writing process in a local coffee shop. As he enters the story himself with his companions, he is able to create the story he’s been wanting to tell. This show has a local flare based on a partnership with Greeley-based Aunt Helen’s Coffee House, which has provided most of the coffee-related items featured in the set and props.
Finally, the summer closer is Pippin, a conceptual show about finding your place in the world. In the production, Pippin is led down various paths by the mysterious and puppet-master-esque Leading Player trying to figure out where he fits. He is influenced by many voices within and without, and in this quest, he discovers himself and his legacy. The LTR version of Pippin is set in Colorado, with wilderness camping as a backdrop rather than the traditional circus-type setting.
Above: Performances from last season's Little Theatre of the Rockies included Clue, The Revolutionists and All Shook Up.
Van De Hey says in addition to this season’s overarching theme, the idea of ensemble acting is another focus of these shows. The actors have to work together as equals in a unit to tell the story. Casts for each production are small, with only three in tick, tick…BOOM!, six in The Quest for Don Quixote, and 10 in Pippin. Student actors, mostly from UNC, with a few from Colorado State University and the surrounding area, will be spend a great deal of time on stage, often playing multiple characters and relying heavily on each other to create a unique experience.
For example, in tick, tick....Boom!, the cast describes the rehearsals for the show as being much more improvisatory and free flowing than those with a bigger cast. This allows them to get to know each other well and creates a safe space for sharing ideas. It's a unified and collaborative experience between the three student actors and guest director Nathan Halvorson, chief executive officer of the Colorado Springs Conservatory and former associate director of performing arts and director of Fine Arts Center Theatre School at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
“Nathan explained to us that we’re improv-ing the show until we find the most refined version of it that tells the story and propels it forward,” Camacho said.
“The show could in some ways change each night depending on what we’re feeling and how things end up going,” added Musical Theatre senior B Cronk, who is playing the role of Jonathan.
Halvorson isn’t the only guest director. A current working theatre professional, they were selected especially for their ability to connect with the student cast and to uniquely tell the story at hand as they lead each production. Rodney Lizcano is a regional director and actor who is tasked with bringing out the comedy and thinking outside the box in “The Quest for Don Quixote,” and Kenny Moten, who runs his own production company in Fort Collins, has already directed Pippin five times, so his personal connection to the story runs deep.
The first two shows are being performed in UNC’s intimate blackbox Norton Theatre, and Pippin is being performed in the Campus Commons Performance Hall, which will mark the first time an LTR production has used the relatively new space. The inaugural production in the venue this summer will be a valuable experience for student designers who are tasked with designing for a different space and for student actors who will perform on a larger stage than usual. The audience can look forward to the top-notch acoustics of the hall and excellent seating options for Pippin.
LTR season tickets can be purchased by calling UNC’s Campus Commons Ticket Office at 970-351-4849. Single tickets to any production are available online or by phone.
As Camacho says about tick, tick…BOOM!, “You’re going to be at the edge of your seat the entire time. No blinking allowed!”
– written by Sara Schuhardt