CREEDE REPERTORY THEATRE
Founded in 1966, Creede Repertory Theatre is a professional theatre company located at 9,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. CRT’s award-winning company produces big city quality productions in this spectacular location from May through September. Each season, CRT produces 7-10 plays in rotating repertory, hosts numerous musical events and concerts, develops new works through the Headwaters New Play Program, and offers nationally recognized educational programming. USA TODAY called us “one of the 10 best places to see the lights way off Broadway” and THE DENVER POST hailed CRT as “legendary” and “one of the state’s top five theatre companies.”
As a cultural home for artists, residents, and visitors of the West, Creede Repertory Theatre will create a diverse repertory season of plays, new works, and dynamic education programs.
Place: Creede Colorado
With the decline of the mines, The City of Creede needed a new source of income and quickly, too. The Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) and Jaycee-ettes met with pastor Jim Livingston and brainstormed about how to secure an attraction for summer visitors with the hope of stimulating business activity. Pastor Livingston loved the theatre and, out of that love, a vision for Creede was born. They agreed to bring performances to the old opera/movie house. But to have performances, they needed performers, which were hard to find in the mining community. Still determined, the Jaycees drafted a letter and mailed it to various universities, hoping that some excited students would answer the call to help build a summer theatre. One of those letters was posted on a bulletin board at the University of Kansas. Steve Grossman, a theatre student, saw the letter, took it down and answered it. It was the only response the Jaycees received.
Under the direction of 19-year-old Steve Grossman, twelve students drove from KU to Creede. The Jaycees joined with them and with $32 in the bank, they mounted the first season. Program ads were sold, the hardware store established an open line of credit, and the twelve tireless students rehearsed. When they weren’t rehearsing, the KU students built the scenery, sewed the costumes, found or made props, lit the stage and sold tickets for $1.00. The opening show, Mr. Roberts, electrified the Creede audience and received an enthusiastic standing ovation. Most people in that audience had never seen live theatre. The KU students went on to mount four more plays: The Bat, Our Town, The Rainmaker, and Born Yesterday (a new play every week!) and run them all in repertory.
Today: Now in our 55th season, the three keystones of the founding company remain: a repertory schedule, a meaningful variety of plays, and the creation of an ensemble. The rotating repertory schedule constitutes one of the most exciting and challenging ways to present a season of plays. It allows a visitor to Creede to see over five different plays in a week. Visitors and theatre practitioners alike have made their pilgrimages to Creede for its majestic beauty, and the artistry of CRT.
With the closing of the Home Stake Operation in 1984, Creede’s last mine, CRT became Mineral County’s largest summer employer — over 100 company members in 2019. The economic goals of the Jaycees and Jaycee-ettes have been realized as well. Today CRT has an annual economic impact of nearly $3 million locally and over $4 million to the state of Colorado.
Artistically, CRT has grown, presenting acclaimed productions each season, and is now a nationally-recognized theatre. We still dedicate ourselves to a variety of plays in one season. In 2018, CRT’s attendance was over 20,000 and CRT’s educational programs reached over 37,000 young people, many in under-served areas.
In 2016, CRT received The Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre and in 2015, a True West award for our 50th season. Then-Governor John Hickenlooper proclaimed August 8th “Creede Repertory Theatre Day” and 5280 Magazine named Creede, Colorado one of the state’s “7 Spectacular Small Town Getaways.” Our Young Audience Outreach Tour has been a multi-year finalist for the National Arts and Humanities Youth Award.
THE CRT MAINSTAGE
The CRT Mainstage started life in the 1930s as a movie house. Later, it became The Creede Opera House, where owner and loveable eccentric, Carl Helfin, staged melodramas. It had been shuttered for a few years before its rebirth in 1966. In those days, there was a small projection booth on the top level of the theatre. You could access it by climbing a ladder nailed to the inside of the theatre wall. Original company member Kay Lancaster remembers: “Climbing up this wooden structure to get into the old projection booth was quite a challenge and once you arrived at the top you had to hurl yourself onto the old cement projection booth floor and crawl a few feet until you could stand up. This little room had an old heavy black metal film projector in it. There was a circular hole in the wall for the projector to show the movies. We used it as our sound booth and I remember being the sound tech for 1967’s Arsenic and Old Lace. It was the warmest room in the theatre.”
In its history as the home of Creede Rep, it has been through fires, floods, and renovations. Floors have been added, spaces transformed, and some company members swear the third floor is haunted. Today, it houses our box office, a performance space, staff offices, costume shop and storage, Helfin rehearsal hall, gift shop, concessions, and countless odd nooks and crannies. It currently seats 230. In early 2020, the lobby floor received a much needed structural and cosmetic upgrade to allow for a better patron experience.
THE RUTH HUMPHREYS BROWN THEATRE
Thanks to a generous gift from the family of a remarkable woman, CRT opened the Ruth Humphreys Brown Theatre in 2011. The life of Ruth Humphreys Brown was varied, full of generosity, and never dull. It was defined by her love of family, friends, and her appreciation for the outdoors – in particular Wagon Wheel Gap, where she spent her summers. She was born Nov 11, 1921, the daughter of A.E. and Ruth Boettcher Humphreys of Denver and was a theatre major at Finch College in New York City. In 1943, she was accepted into the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots program. In 2010, she and her fellow WASPs received the Congressional Gold Medal for service during World War II.
She returned to Aspen after the War, where she lived until her marriage to DRC Brown, a founder and president of the Aspen Ski Corporation. The famed Ruthie’s Run on Aspen Mountain was named in honor of her efforts to find a better way down the mountain for intermediate skiers. She and DRC lived on a ranch in Carbondale and raised their family there – spending part of their summers and some Christmases in Creede. During her many years in the Roaring Fork Valley, Ruth helped start the Tri County Medical Center, the Brown Ice Palace, the Aspen Recovery Unit, the Bold Ski program for blind skiers, and the first Outward Bound Program in the U.S.
The Humphreys family has long ties to the town of Creede. Ruth’s grandfather, A.E. Humphreys was involved in mining, oil, and manufacturing. In the 1890s, his mining interests took him to Creede during the silver boom and he was there during the time of Nicholas Creede. Then, in the early 1920s, Ruth’s grandfather built a summer mountain retreat above Wagon Wheel Gap that remains an important gathering place for generations of family and friends.
The generosity of Ruth’s family, along with numerous private donors, foundations, and state and federal support, has made this new theatre possible. The new theatre’s flexible configuration seats up to 199 (more than doubling the capacity of CRT’s previous third floor facility) and provides an intimate, accessible venue. The new facility’s climate control allows for year-round use, providing a much-needed space for Creede community events within the Creede community. It is a flexible, contemporary-feeling space, mostly utilized in ¾ thrust and in-the-round.