Firebird Theatre: The Phoenix Rises

By Dawne Belloise

For a small town at the end of the road, we sure have a lot of drama, and now there’s even more in the way of thespianism to appreciate and enjoy. Firebird Theatre was born this past year of the love of acting, performance and theater education. This Saturday, December 9, downstairs at the Public House in CB, Firebird Theatre is hosting its 2024 Season Reveal Party to announce their shows for the upcoming year. 

“The party is a celebration of what we’ve done up to this point and a look forward to 2024,” Firebird artistic director David Flora says. The event is also serving as a fundraiser for the fledgling troupe. “It’ll be a fun, high energy, comedic performance that is equal parts informational and comedic. We take our work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. It will be a night of laughs and revelations, with formal wear encouraged,” David says of the show and adds that admission includes hors d’oeuvres. 

They are hoping to raise enough money to cover their soon-to-be announced 2024 season with 30% of their goal of $20,000 already raised. The evening will reveal three shows for younger casts and four mainstage shows. “We hope that this event will also attract anyone who is interested in trying out theater in any capacity,” he says.

The response to the new theater group has been an incredible and supportive reception since its founding in June of this year, David notes. The group formed primarily to bring more theatrical opportunities to the Gunnison Valley. The founding members are no strangers to the CB theatrical stage, including many local favorites: Genevieve Bachman, Annie (Rijks) Flora, David Flora, Paul Roggenbuck, David Russell, Tricia Seeberg, Emily Sharan, Jimmy Utley and Hannah Valian, with new staff members Tristan and Joanne Buss and William Spicer. David emphasizes, “This is a collective of folks who are running this theater, really great people with a lot of different skills and skill sets. Everybody is pitching in and it’s entirely volunteer based. All proceeds go directly to productions and that’s important to us.”

With their focus on high production quality, Firebird Theatre is determined to bring different productions in addition to typical theatrical offerings and they aren’t afraid to tackle larger productions either. This past September, the troupe performed Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, utilizing the outdoor stage at the historic train depot in Crested Butte. The show was free and drew large audiences for its run. “We did it for free because we want theater to be accessible to everybody,” David says, having observed that a lot of entertainment can be price prohibitive here.

“Right now, we’re doing a lot of kid’s productions. We had our first youth theater with a performance of Beauty and the Beast at the Majestic Theatre,” David says. This holiday season, the Firebird clan are producing The Nutcracker and the Mouse King with young director Maddy Carver, a local teen, at the helm and kids from 4th grade through high school freshmen involved. “We are working with Maddy every step of the way so that they can learn what it is like to put on a production. The seven teen/child actors who are performing in this comedic play (that is not anything like the ballet) are doing a great job.” This show opens on December 9 at 2 p.m. at the Majestic Theatre.  

David also claims that they are, “huge fans of panel shows, which is a comedy show that has four panelists and a host who challenges them to different games.” They’ll be running one of these shows on December 10 at the Parish Hall in CB. “This show will have puns, kazoos, word play and more. It is a show of dumb jokes and smart alecks.”

Some of the troupe’s longer-term goals are to provide more opportunities for local people to learn various aspects of theater, whether it’s production, stage management or the tech side, and David invites anyone who is interested to come and help out on a production and get hands-on experience. Next year, they’re hoping to have a little bit of everything to offer like acting classes, stand-up classes and sketch comedy writing. David is a veteran of diverse theater in Chicago, having worked with several of the major improv sketch comedy troupes like Second City, IO and ComedySportz. With their Chicago connections, Firebird Theatre can draw on a lot of people to help for their classes and events.

Their first improv show is December 15 at the Almont Resort and then December 16, 22 and 23 at the Parish Hall in CB. It’s called Humbug! An Improvised Christmas Carol and David tells, “It takes the Christmas classic that we all know and love and turns it on its head.”

Firebird Theatre is a 501(c)3 non-profit. They volunteered time to help P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization which supports women’s education) with a murder mystery scavenger hunt. They offered a free Stage Management Workshop that was taught by Jamie Wolfe, a professional stage manager at both Steppenwolf (a Chicago theater company) and The Goodman Theatre, also in Chicago. They also teamed up with the Center for the Arts to bring a shadowcast performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to life. If you missed their performance of Twelfth Night, you can find it on YouTube. Firebird Theatre plans to offer memberships in the coming year and their newsletter is on their website.

As for the Reveal party, doors open Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. General admission is $35.

You can find Firebird Theatre online at www where you can buy tickets, get show and workshop schedules and general info as well as give a donation. They are on multiple social media like Facebook, Instagram at firebirdtheatrecb and on TikTok at firebirdtheatreco

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