Steamboat Arts Academy finds perfect partnership with Chief Theater |

Steamboat Arts Academy finds perfect partnership with Chief Theater

Steamboat Arts Academy will be able to rehearse in its performance space now that the academy is moving into the Chief Theater.
Hilary Spillane

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Arts Academy is making the Chief Theater its new home, and everything about the move feels right. Leaving its old space at Jacobs Circle and holding camps in a performing space has the same feeling of a river finding its way to the ocean: it’s what’s supposed to happen.

“A performing arts academy and the theater, it’s like chocolate and peanut butter together. It tastes great,” said Scott Parker, executive director of the Chief. 

The new location provides benefits for the theater, and of course, the Steamboat Arts Academy participants. Without COVID-19 shutting down everything else that typically occurs at the theater, this partnership may not have worked out. 

“It’s kind of weird how unexpected gifts can come out of really tough situations. I would have never asked the Chief to hold us just because I know prior to COVID they were so busy with stuff,” said Steamboat Arts Academy Artistic Director Celina Taylor. “It feels really good now to know that we not only have a performance space we can train on, but we can be more closely connected with the Chief and support them during this time. … It feels like it was meant to be.”

Practicing at a theater every day not only allows the participants to learn where they’ll actually be performing, but it’ll make them more comfortable in a theater and give them a sense of pride and ownership of the space. Parker wants the Arts Academy attendees to feel at home in the Chief and hopes that feeling will encourage them to treat the space with respect.

The space itself is a huge benefit. Not only is there a stage, which also opens up the possibility for tap lessons, but there is a green room, and there will soon be a dance studio. The Chief could also host camps focused on the technical aspect of performing such as lighting, set design, and costume creation and selection. Looking into the future, Parker hopes some of the participants become interns at the theater, or get more involved with the Chief Players.

“We’re trying not to go too big too fast, but I really feel the sky is the limit for this partnership,” said Parker.

Steamboat Arts Academy is changing in a few ways at once, as director Taylor is dividing up her role. Taylor will remain artistic director while spending more time with her family in Denver and pursuing a master’s degree. Meanwhile, Shannon Parker is taking on the role of managing director. Shannon has been heavily involved in the academy from the beginning, and Taylor has been thinking of making her a partner for some time.

“It felt really exciting and wonderful to have the opportunity to bring her on as a full partner and know that this business is female-owned,” Taylor said.

With no other performances or programming at the Chief due to COVID-19, the Steamboat Arts Academy summer camps are filling a void. 

Summer camps are limited to nine people to ensure the health and safety of the teachers and students. Masks are required, and common areas will be disinfected before and after each camp.

Scott Parker, who teaches improv and comedy camps, said wearing a mask can certainly be a challenge in theater when your face expresses so much, but it’s worth it to power through the difficulties. 

“You’ve just got to be innovative with what you’re doing. We’re flexible with what we can offer,” said Scott. “We’ll overcome whatever obstacle is in our way because the arts are too important to the community to not offer them.”

No matter how big the academy grows, the intent will never change. 

“We just want kids to get quality education in the arts, something they can take somewhere else,” said Shannon. “Our goal is to get them, if they want, to take them out of Steamboat. … We want them to outgrow us and go somewhere else and learn more.”

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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