Residents embrace theater |

Residents embrace theater

The South Routt community didn’t need magic to produce the “Wizard of Oz,” just some hard-working community members who have a love for the theater.

South Routt’s community plays started three years ago when Rick Benoit, the head of the drama and music department at Colorado Mountain Community College in Rangely, thought it would be nice to extend the drama program to the service areas of the college by directing plays. That meant organizing casts and productions in Rangely, Meeker, Craig and south Routt.

“I went about the insane task of doing that,” he said.

His idea was to get as many people involved in the theater as possible. Each area had its own cast of actors and in some cases one town would have a different cast for each night of the production. Benoit would drive to each of the areas with the same costumes and props for each production.

After he successfully pulled off productions of “Annie” and “Oklahoma” in the four towns, Benoit’s work evolved into the community theater of those areas.

This year, because Benoit is working on his dissertation, he wasn’t able to do the extensive traveling and work in all the areas to ensure that this season’s production of the “Wizard of Oz” would survive.

“I was really disappointed,” south Routt theater veteran Bea Cole said.

If Benoit wasn’t going to be able to do it, south Routt would have to find someone to direct the play, Cole said.

Yampa resident Bobbie Vetter suggested that since Cole has been involved with the plays in the past that she should direct the “Wizard of Oz.”

Though she lacked directing experience, Cole took on the task.

“It’s been awesome,” she said. “This is how it’s going to be for now on.”

“She’s really caught the bug,” Benoit said.

Benoit’s role now is as producer to the four shows in northwest Colorado.He supplies the costumes and props, if needed.

However, in south Routt, the residents made sure that not much of Benoit’s help was needed.

“All I have to do is come and enjoy the show,” he said happily.

Props and costumes were made locally and the high school band teacher, Brett DePew, and the elementary school music teacher, Kevin Houseman, volunteered their time and skills to coordinate the musical part of the play.

“It’s just been overwhelming support by the community,” said Cole, who thoroughly enjoyed being director.

“It’s been the best experience of my life,” she said. “The people I’ve worked with and the actors have been so awesome.”

During her directing stint, Cole saw the importance of having a community theater. She’s going back to college to get a teaching degree and will minor in drama. When she’s finished with school, Cole wants to spearhead south Routt’s community theater.

“It’s an outlet for creativity and south Routt doesn’t have enough of that,” Cole said. “For the community, it’s also really fun to watch.”

The curtain raises for the Wizard of Oz on April 28 and 29.

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