When she was a girl, Barbi Bonfiglio didn't dream about designing or creating a theater. She didn't think about gutting Oak Creek's old gym and turning it into an arts venue, and she certainly didn't imagine doing so would take only four months.
"I didn't dream about it. I didn't even think about it. It wasn't a 'since I was a little girl' thing, either," Bonfiglio said. "I just saw the need for a theater and decided to go for it."
However, when the opportunity presented itself in August, Bonfiglio, with help from family and friends, decided to turn the old gym into a place for local artists to perform and show their work.
Bonfiglio, a professional dancer and choreographer, always has had an artistic inclination, so it was somewhat natural for her to create a place where other people could express themselves.
"For my purposes, I wanted to create something that was completely different, something that wasn't exactly what you expect," she said.
So, Bonfiglio chose to name her theater using a word that embodies what she wanted: Paradigm.
"To me, paradigm means to shift the way you think to look at things differently. I encourage all of the performers and artists who come into this space to do the same -- to look at their art in a different way and light," she said.
The space Bonfiglio created will be conducive to that process she said, especially because the theater, with its all-black decor -- seems to create a sense of creativity and possibility.
"It took us four hours to knock down all the walls. It took lots and lots of black paint, because if it's black, I can do whatever I want with the theater. Last week, it was a photo gallery; this week, it's a cabin scene. Next week, it will be the scene for a bunch of British women putting on a murder mystery," she said.
Bonfiglio made sure the venue would accommodate virtually any type of art, be it poetry, music, plays, comedy, photography or paintings.
"The only thing I can't have in here is circus acts," she said with a laugh.
Bonfiglio said most performances and events cost between $5 and $10. The theater also serves beverages and pastries from The Mugshot. Bonfiglio hopes to get a limited liquor license to serve some alcoholic beverages.
So far, Bonfiglio said the community has been very receptive to having a cultural venue in town, especially because a theater like the Paradigm does not exist anywhere else in Routt County.
"The community has been really supportive and excited to see what we're doing. That is absolutely the best part. It's a neat feeling to know how excited they all are," she said.
"This is the kind of place you can lose yourself in, and that's nice, because we get too much reality anyway."
The Paradigm opened Nov. 11 with a photography display of images taken in Oak Creek around Labor Day. Photographer Alana Rothstein called the show "24 hours of South Routt."
"I got a good response, and it gave me that nice, warm fuzzy feeling I like," Rothstein said. "After spending 15 years in Los Angeles, moving to Oak Creek certainly has been a change of pace."
Rothstein befriended Bonfiglio decades ago and recently decided to move to Colorado to work and help with the theater.
"This whole experience has been amazing. I know I have grown both spiritually and artistically by leaps and bounds," Rothstein said.
Bonfiglio said she looks forward to the next few months of performances. She already has booked a Celtic duo from Denver, a local pianist and special Christmas and New Year's events.
"This theater will never feel empty to me," she said.
-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234
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