Take a seat
To buy one of 100 Steamboat Mountain Theater seats, e-mail theater owner Kelly Anzalone at kelly@steamboatth.... Money from the seats will go toward closing down the space and storing theater equipment until a new venue is secured.
Steamboat Springs Kelly Anzalone sits in a darkened Steamboat Mountain Theater, practicing guitar and enjoying the calm before a sold-out show.
Later in the day Friday, he'll put on a white tuxedo that's been purposely measured short and take the stage as one of two emcees for the Steamboat Springs Arts Council's 25th annual Cabaret. At some point during that show, he will sing a quasi-improvised song about reports of moose sightings in the police blotter, deliver a fiery couplet about the destruction of Ski Time Square in a poetry slam and don blackface in a mock presidential debate, which he swears was not his idea.
But for now, Anzalone is interrupting trains of thought by looking around his theater and remembering how much work he put into it. Every light bar, every piece of sound equipment, every bit of the stage in Steamboat Mountain Theater is tailored uniquely to the space. Anzalone, with the help of a few friends and an electrical crew, did the vast majority of this work himself.
And at the end of the month, that won't matter, because it won't be his any more.
"People ask me if I'm just going to take a sledgehammer to it after the last show. And no, I don't want to do that. I like this place," Anzalone said.
For Anzalone, who took the theater over in late 2005 and spent three months retrofitting it as a multi-purpose venue, there are two ways to look at the space's end.
One way is sad: There's all the work that went into the space, all the productions he put on here, all the effort - and money - he spent on diversifying his programming. And there's all of that being gone.
The other way is not sad: While owning and operating his first venue, Anzalone went through a sort of boot camp in management, marketing and construction. Those are lessons he can take to a new space, one that he plans to improve with a more ideal location and a better delegation of responsibility.
"Because there's nothing that you can do about it, you have to have a positive side," he said of his business, which will be demolished with the rest of Ski Time Square.
When the theater comes down, community shows such as Cabaret and Pirate Theatre will go back to their previous nomadic existences, renting large rooms and setting up a stage from scratch.
"At the moment, we're in limbo," said Michael David, Anzalone's co-emcee in Cabaret and a contributor to Pirate Theatre. "We'll go back to what we've done before, because we're adaptable."
Aside from losing the convenience of a permanent venue, the dramatic arts in Steamboat - and the people who volunteer their time to support them - are losing their home, David said.
"It's sad. I mean, it's crazy sad to lose the ease and convenience of having a stage that is already set up with lights and cameras and sound equipment. As a performer and somebody who is just part of the crew, it's a great situation just to walk in and flick a switch and press a button and all of that is ready," David said. "We've grown so used to that in the last three years thanks to Kelly, that it's a little bit upsetting to have to go back to that grind."
Mike Anzalone, the theater's front-of-house manager and Kelly Anzalone's older brother, said the venue's closing resonates for a community that doesn't have a ready replacement. But shutting down the 3-year-old space is more personal than that.
"It's also a loss for Kelly. Ever since he was small, he's been very creative and always wanted to make people laugh and help others. And so, for him, this is a very spiritual kind of thing," Mike Anzalone said.
He points to the people who volunteer on stage, in the booth or behind the bar - on top of working at least 40 hours a week - as those who will miss the theater most.
"They say their lives would be a lot less happy without the theater. They work full days, and then they come in and work at the theater and they're happy. They work a few hours, and all their problems fade away," he said.
Kelly Anzalone said he'll miss building sets and spending time backstage with people he's known for years, and he'll miss the blank slate of a black stage after a successful show.
He won't miss shows that had an attendance of less than 10 people (which happened more than once), having to hire security for rock concerts or worrying about marketing and promoting. Those are operational tasks Anzalone said he got better at in his short time running the place, but he plans to give them to someone else at any future venue.
"I think what the community has learned from the theater as well is that I'm more than just funny. That hey, this guy can run this place," Anzalone said.
Planning for the future
If Anzalone had $2 million right now, he probably would have a new space. There are options that would work for a fully functioning black box with a bar and a stage, and there are developers who would take that project on.
"I'm not locked into that spot, because there's several options and because I have no money," Anzalone said.
It's not exactly a deep insight to say there is opportunity for someone willing to open a bar with a permanent emphasis on entertainment in Steamboat Springs, he said. And the faster Anzalone can get in on that, the better.
"That's a no-brainer investment, the bar part. The hard part is deciding what you put in there and how quality the entertainment is that you provide," he said. "And the sooner that you get back into the stream of things, the easier it is to get your audience back."
Marion Kahn, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, said a performing arts venue can be a profitable enterprise, and it's one she hopes can work in the next stage of Steamboat's development. She said the Mountain Theater's closing speaks to the need for a permanent, multi-use facility in Steamboat.
"We're all doing makeshift things to try to make something work, and I'm sure that we'll all be working together to try to figure out what an answer is. And it may be several answers," Kahn said.
"Kelly's theater has always really been a fun place. I mean people go there and have a great time. Just to see how much fun people have there, it's a need that we have in this community," she said.
Ready for an encore
On the Cabaret stage, Anzalone's friends and colleagues make fun of him mercilessly.
Andy Pratt and Gina Wither come on for a We're Not Clowns juggling act wearing glasses and huge eyebrows, mimicking facial expressions that only Kelly Anzalone makes. Michael David takes every jab he can at his co-host.
But there's also a big "Thank You Kelly" poster in the lobby, and Pratt presents an Aladdin's lamp trophy to Anzalone during the second act, so that all his wishes will come true.
"We're heaping a lot of love on Kelly right now because we genuinely want him to understand how much we appreciate his effort," David said.
So, as Anzalone said, it's not like he's on a solo quest. And even though he'll walk into the theater Monday morning to an empty stage and walls that have had the red velvet curtains stripped off of them, he's motivated to try again.