Coming soon

Actors sign lease for live theater

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To the untrained eye, the place looks like a closed movie theater. The posters have been taken off the walls. The cash register is gone. The popcorn machine is unplugged and empty.

But tour the place with the new tenants, Scott Parker and Kelly Anzalone, and it begins to come alive. A stage appears. The narrow hallway behind the blank movie screen becomes a dressing room. The lobby walls fill with art.

Parker and Anzalone signed a lease Monday for the space in Ski Time Square most recently occupied by Mountain Movie.

As soon as they had a key, the two walked into the quiet theater and began to plan. The dream of opening a place for live theater, performance arts and foreign and independent films had been a dream of theirs for most of the 10 years they have known each other.

As they stood alone for the first time in the empty theater, "It just felt right," Parker said.

Steamboat Springs Mountain Theater Company is scheduled to open in mid-November. Since Monday, they have registered a domain name at www.steamboattheater.com and are completing paperwork for a beer and wine license. They already have sketches for an 18-by-35-foot stage, which would be larger than the stage at the former Seventh Street Playhouse.

The Seventh Street Playhouse -- where Parker and Anzalone performed for years with We're Not Clowns -- was torn down this summer after sitting empty for more than a year. As the dust from the demolition settled, the reality sunk in for many actors in town that there was no place for them to perform in Steamboat.

For a short time, hope was offered by Terry Koch, who brought a proposal before City Council to build a 250-seat performing arts space called Riverhouse on Yampa Street. When Koch's health began to fail, he left town, and the plans left with him.

But Parker and Anzalone's minds were put in motion by Koch's proposal.

"This town has been denied a performing arts space for too many years," Parker said.

On Aug. 27, when Mark Green announced he would not renew his lease on the space where he ran Mountain Movie for three years, Parker called Anzalone.

"Should we go for it?" Parker asked. Within days, the two called Sheraton Steamboat Resort Hotel General Manager Chuck Porter, and the wheels were put in motion. Sheraton Steamboat Resort Hotel owns that space and many other Ski Time Square buildings.

"It all happened quickly," Parker said.

Outside of the building, where the marquee once announced the titles of the latest movie release, the sign reads: "LIVE THEATER COMING SOON."

Although the first hammer is yet to fly on the renovation of the space, people are waiting to be put to work. Local artist R.C. Dieckhoff has volunteered to turn the lobby into an art gallery. Tropical Rockies owner Gavin Graham is planning to install a saltwater fish tank in the lobby.

When the theater opens, it will be the home of the displaced Steamboat Community Players and We're Not Clowns. The partners also plan to bring back the Western Melodramas that were popular years ago in the Loft Bar at the Ore House at Pine Grove. The movie screen and projection equipment will remain intact for groups who want to see foreign and independent films.

Ski Town Productions is on the schedule for a show in April.

"The other day, I was watching a video of an old We're Not Clowns show at the Seventh Street Playhouse," Anzalone said. "The seats were full, and I remembered how great it was to have a space to perform." Although there are several rooms to rent in Steamboat for a weekend of theater, Parker and Anzalone look forward to a place where the stage and lighting is permanent and actors can rehearse.

The entertainment will begin as soon as audience members walk through the front door -- actors will be in costume taking tickets and selling concessions.

On weekends when nothing is scheduled, the space will be available for a small rental fee.

Parker and Anzalone sign--ed a two-year lease, but their plans for the theater are long-term.

They see the incarnation of Steamboat Springs Mountain Theater Company as a chance to prove themselves. When the time comes to move out of the space, they imagine proposing a permanent theater space for the redeveloped Ski Time Square or using their experience to inspire investors to build a theater elsewhere in Steamboat.

"I'm sure we'll make mistakes, but I think we have the right philosophy," Parker said.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips, call 871-4210 or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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