Rehabilitation project ongoing inside historic Perry-Mansfield theater |

Rehabilitation project ongoing inside historic Perry-Mansfield theater

A crane helps lift giant steel beams Tuesday as work progresses on the Julie Harris Theater at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp located just outside Steamboat Springs on Routt County Road 36. (Photo by Bryce Martin)

Part of the nation’s oldest continuously operating performing arts camp and one of Routt County’s most notable buildings is getting a face lift.

Built in 1956, the Julie Harris Theater at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp just outside Steamboat Springs is currently undergoing a multiphase, multiyear construction project that began last month. Historic Routt County has partnered with Perry-Mansfield to complete the project, which is paid for by state grant funding and private donations.

The first phase, which is expected to be completed by Memorial Day, includes roof stabilization efforts for the six-sided — yet technically not hexagonal — structure. With the help of a crane, giant steel beams, some of which measured 48 feet in length and weighed about 3,000 pounds, were carefully floated in through the theater’s large exterior doors and installed this week to help support the long, low-sloping roof. Part of the roof had further been damaged Friday by sporadic gusty winds.

Part of the project's construction team working on the Julie Harris Theater carefully watches as a crane located outside the building helps lift one of the giant steel beams that will be used to support the structure's roof. (Photo by Bryce Martin)

The theater is the main classroom and performance space for Perry-Mansfield’s nationally renowned summer theater programs and hosts performances and meetings for various community organizations in the off-season. Its namesake was Oscar-nominated actress Julie Harris who was a student under Charlotte Perry, a co-founder of the local camp in 1913. Harris went on to star in multiple Broadway productions, winning five Tony Awards, and in films such as “The Haunting” and “East of Eden” among many others. Harris died in 2013.

A departure from the camp’s rustic style, the theater was based on a design by Canadian architect Willard Sage — a student of legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright — who also served as an actor on the camp’s staff.

The theater is about 5,600 square-feet, can seat 160 occupants and is believed to be the first U.S. theater with a stage that could be configured as proscenium, thrust, or in-the-round, according to Historic Routt County Executive Director Emily Katzman.

“This versatility is still a hallmark of the theater,” Katzman said. “Productions still use varied and innovative set and stage designs to enhance the experience of attending a play in this intimate setting.”

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