Autumn Phillips: Ready for theater

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Sunday afternoon was filled with shades of things to come. Outside, it was spitting a strange combination of snow and rain and rays of sun. We were in Ski Time Square, and if you cocked your head and squinted, you could imagine the mountain covered in snow.

Inside, if you cocked your head and squinted, you could imagine that the work crew in paint splattered T-shirts were a crowd of theater-lovers heading to their seats for a performance. Or you could open your eyes and see how much work there was to make that a reality.

A few theater types were gathered in the lobby of what was once Mountain Movie to spackle and paint it toward its next incarnation -- a live theater, a music venue, an art house.

Among the drop cloths, stepladders and paint rollers, something was forming. Ideas were being thrown around. A future was being created.

As I sat on the floor putting the second coat of paint on the trim, I was reminded of myself years ago sitting on the steps of a closed coffee shop. The place had been a social spot and a great stage for poets, musicians and performing art of all kind. But art isn't always profitable, and the owner was going out of business.

We conspired that night to reopen the place and the stage on our own. A week later, we were wearing paint splattered T-shirts, and I was sitting cross legged on the stage stirring a pot of spaghetti on my camp stove.

Those two rooms -- the theater on Sunday and the empty coffee shop years ago -- had that same electric charge. As we worked, we imagined we were doing more than putting paint on the walls. We were putting energy into something to bring it to life.

The new theater, which should open later this month, is the brainchild of Steamboat stage veterans Scott Parker and Kelly Anzalone.

As we worked, not only did the venue start to take shape, but I listened as Parker and Anzalone's bantering about local politics formed like a rolling snowball into jokes I'm sure I'll hear in Cabaret 2006 or in next spring's Ski Town Production.

My own witty repertoire was somewhat dulled by the cocktail head blow I dealt myself the night before while celebrating Halloween.

My nails were still painted a $1.99 Courtney Love red from the night before. Now the red was covered by splotches of light brown paint that looked like clay.

It was the perfect color for a theater lobby, subtle and classic. The choice was less a representation of Parker and Anzalone's good taste -- quite the opposite -- and more of an omen that the theater was meant to be a success.

Legend has it the two men chose a red and pink color scheme for the room. Fate intervened, and the fairy godfather of interior design landed just in time to shake his head, put his hands on his hips and redecorate.

By some strange coincidence, as paint purchases were being made, Steve Spitz of the TV show "Living Better with Steve Spitz" came to town. He called Anzalone for some camerawork and soon found himself in the doorway of what soon will be our favorite live local theater venue. After he got over his initial horror, Spitz whirlwinded the place into shape with a few pointed suggestions. Then he disappeared back to cable TV as fast as he had come.

We covered the walls according to the Steve Spitz paint-by-number plan, and I started counting down to opening day.

We've been without a theater space in Steamboat for too long. Actors have been pacing the streets like wretched Dickens ghosts, putting on plays wherever they could find an empty room and some folding chairs.

But this new theater is just another bubble in the stirring pot that is the Steamboat arts scene. New galleries. Public Art funding. Film events. More musicians meeting and performing together. Locally written plays. A new poetry publishing house. People have been painting the walls for a while now, and the doors are ready to open on all kinds of things.

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