Oak Creek The stage is empty at the Paradigm Theater, and its spotlights are about to fade.
In its years as a small community theater on Main Street in Oak Creek, down a hallway past The Mug Shot coffee shop, the Paradigm has housed everything from musicals and dance shows to local bands and poetry readings, even a birthday party, owner Lock McShane said.
But after a year of failed operations, with trouble in both booking and attendance, McShane is giving up the space next month.
McShane started at the Paradigm Theater doing technical work for former owner Barbi Bonfiglio. He took over when Bonfiglio moved to Denver last year. But these days, McShane says he simply isn't destined to be a "front of the house" guy. He plans to go back to his roots in lighting and sound design.
While McShane continues to use his technical theater skills elsewhere - he will be the technical director for Steamboat Dance Theatre's annual concert, coming up in March - he has no shows booked at the Paradigm before his lease runs out.
The downturn in booking was partly fueled by poor attendance at recent shows - McShane recalled the 50-seat theater being practically empty for one local band's performance last year.
"Having that sort of reputation, it's hard to bring in other acts," McShane said. "In the past, I think people were more willing to travel to Oak Creek to do stuff."
In the meantime, McShane is hoping to be able to keep the space set up as a theater, in the hopes that someone will want to take over and keep the theater alive.
"I don't know if anyone wants to give it a try," he said. "No one has come forward."
The theater's lack of a liquor license takes a chunk out of the Paradigm's profitability, McShane said. The lack of plumbing hook-ups in the theater space render the Paradigm unable to qualify for a liquor license due to health codes, he said.
Seeing yet another theater close is sad news to those who used to put on performances there.
"We're losing our theaters all around," said Jennifer Stoddard, a stagehand at past Paradigm productions. "It's sad to see these spaces we used to do productions in go away, and nobody cares."
The Paradigm Theater is not the only venue Stoddard and the rest of Routt County's performing arts community are going to miss in the coming years - the Steamboat Mountain Theater is due for demolition this spring to accommodate the upcoming revamp of Ski Time Square. Steamboat's Seventh Street Playhouse was torn down in 2005.
The end of the Paradigm is particularly sad for small communities like Oak Creek, McShane said, since after its closure there will be few performing arts spaces in South Routt, other than those at Soroco High School.
"The Paradigm used to have a real following up there," Stoddard said, recalling the packed houses that filled the theater for its rendition of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show."
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