A Peak to Peak Players Review
By David Josselyn
A flurry of theatrical talent is sweeping across Gilpin County in the form of an implausible group calling themselves the Peak to Peak Players. Entertaining, enriching, and inspiring the rural mountain communities is their mission which they have ambitiously pursued these past two years with three major productions, “The Wizard of Oz,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Shrek The Musical,” and three summer camp shows, “Seussical Jr.,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza.” The Peak to Peak Players board members were pleased to take on the role of producing Gilpin Elementary theater program which furthers their goal to foster and develop the artistic talents of local youth through participation and education. Executive Director Mark Ragan said the school superintendent Dave MacKenzie is “extremely happy with it.”
Mark Ragan moved here four years ago from the Chicago area where he spent 17 years as a reporter and formed Lawrence Ragan Communications, Inc. which is a leader in corporate communications, public relations, social media and management. Ragan loved the mountains and made many trips to Colorado before seizing the opportunity to move to our great state. Shortly afterward, he went to see his daughter’s play at Gilpin School and was blown away by how great it was. Mark was eager to meet the director and was introduced to Jacquelyn O’Brien. Jacquelyn invited Mark and his family to a Christmas party where they, along with several other friends, sang favorite songs from the theater which fed an aching desire to start a theater company. On that fateful night of December 2012, the Peak to Peak Players were born. Ragan provided the seed money and they formed a board which quickly pulled together their first major production, “The Wizard of Oz” attracting more than 600 people.
The Peak to Peak Players have marveled audiences with their performances and have worked seemingly non-stop to keep churning out quality entertainment. One of the challenges they have had, is not having a place to call home. Superintendent MacKenzie has graciously allowed use of the school auditorium during the summer, but the Players aspirations go way beyond a single annual performance. “Romeo and Juliet” was performed at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder, which is outside the literal peak to peak area, but also spread the name of the Peak to Peak Players beyond its borders and brought in talent from the front range for 2019’s “Shrek the Musical.” Director Ed Schoenradt (Community Outreach Coordinator) was hampered in scheduling by other previously booked events at the school. He took it all in stride, though, and pulled off five performances of “Shrek” last summer.
On Saturday, October 5th, 2019, the Peak to Peak Players cut the ribbon for the grand opening of what they can finally call home; the Williams Stables in Central City. The Stables, opposite the famed Teller House, are owned by the Central City Opera and are used during the months of July and August by the Opera for special performances; however, it stands empty the rest of the year with only the ghosts of the Creepy Crawl to occupy its space. Ragan worked with the Opera to sign a two-year lease giving the Peak to Peak Players the keys to a home theater space. The Stables are not without its own challenges; there is no restroom, for one, and only one space heater for the two-story structure. That has not stopped the board members from excitedly planning the use of the building. The Grand Opening featured a concert by Doug Fisichella; and the very next weekend was a concert by Dutch and the Redhed (all three and sensational guitar players and musicians). Concerts are just the tip of the iceberg. Ragan’s vision is that the Stables will become the center of community theatre with community events, movie nights, square dancing, comedy shows, holiday shows, sing-a-longs, and of course, major productions. Mark hopes to produce A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” in time for Valentine’s Day and Jacquelyn O’Brien recently announced that the Peak to Peak Players will be the first Colorado troupe to produce the Broadway smash, “Puffs” next spring. “Puffs” is set in a magical castle and school in England popularized by a famously annoying wizard boy traumatized by one who shall not be named but told from the perspective of the oft ignored Puff house. Auditions will be in November. Performances will be held at the Williams Stables and the Dairy Arts Center.
While the Players plan for future events, the Stables are being used to further their mission of education. Actress Jess Schmeling, who studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, is conducting an eight-week acting class for youth which focusses on warm ups, monologues, and scene work, and will culminate in a recital featuring their newfound, or newly honed, skills. Schmeling’s class will be followed by a four-week class taught by Jolene Sheldon for elementary students and will focus on eight emotions.
The Williams Stables will provide a consistent performance venue for events outside of Gilpin School, yet all the administrative work has been completed in various homes of the board members. The Players must have been sprinkled with fairy dust, pixie dust, or granted three wishes, because following on the heels of the Stables they entered a five-year contract to lease the second floor of the Masonic Building, separated from the Stables by one rickety staircase that is currently under construction. The board wasted no time in organizing a cleaning party, so they are ready to move in.
Gilpin County now has a professional theatre company in the Peak to Peak Players which is attracting attention from beyond the county borders. The hard work and insane dedication fueled by a love of the craft of the board members and volunteers has created a theatrical entertainment movement catching fire at 8,500 feet. An ambitious schedule from day one has proved they can deliver professionally, educationally, and provide an outlet for the community, but they are just getting started. If anyone is interested in acting, set design, stage work, or contributing in other manners, the Peak to Peak Players would love to have you.