Profile: Emily Sharan

By Dawne Belloise

Emily Sharan was the cutest little munchkin in the Wizard of Oz play when she was a mere three years old in her hometown of Hamilton, Massachusetts. In her senior year of high school, she asked her drama director if he knew of any schools in Colorado that offered drama. The only one he knew of was Western Colorado University (WCU) in Gunnison. She was accepted and moved west to Western, sight unseen. 

Having been in theater now practically all her life, Emily has now found her home as part of the core group of actors in the recently formed Firebird Theatre in Crested Butte. Most days, Emily is working for the town of Mt. Crested Butte in the finance department.

Emily’s childhood, through her 18th year, was spent in a very unique neighborhood of Hamilton called Asbury Grove, with 80 acres of land owned by the Methodist church where half the homes were year-round residences and the other half were summer cottages. “Every summer was like a camp,” she recalls. “We’d be running around barefoot, playing in the pool, doing theater and crafts.” Her family had lived there since the early 1900s. Emily’s father was a pressman who printed newspapers. “It’s still done but it’s a dying art form. Mom owned a little motel and bar called the Whittier Motel. I spent my summers between Christian summer camps and the bar, helping to stock and being paid a dollar for every fly I could kill,” she grins. 

While she was still in high school, Emily would visit her two older brothers who had moved to the Glenwood Springs area. She tells, “I was desperate to leave Massachusetts. I had a unique upbringing, and I didn’t really fit in with the fast-paced culture and materialistic ways there. It’s definitely a different set of ideals there than it is in Colorado. People drive fast, talk fast and they work hard, they have an incredible work ethic,” one that Emily feels she brings with her in life. But she was searching. “I think it’s important for everyone at some point in their life to go away and explore new areas, new horizons, to get out of their comfort zone and do something different and diverse.”

Instead of high school, Emily attended a technical school where she studied machine technology, working with metal machinery, which she explains is, “essentially, machining tools to do parts manufacturing. There was a larger portion of men in the studies but there were also women in this non-traditional trade. I was exceptionally good at math and there’s a lot of math involved.” After graduation in 2008, she switched gears.

“I was doing theater with the most underfunded drama program that I’ve ever experienced. A tech school doesn’t have a budget for theater,” she laughs. That’s when she was told about WCU and its theater department. “I knew nothing about the town or the college but my first introduction to the valley was a full Blue Mesa Reservoir and a beautiful bluebird day. I fell in love with the campus and immediately started looking for a job.” Emily landed work at the campus dining hall and then began working at the Gunnison nursing home where she stayed employed for four years. She became certified as a Certified Nursing Assistant. “The training was through Gunnison Valley Health. Working at the nursing home was one of the hardest jobs I ever had in my life. I tended to emotionally bond with the people I took care of and that was really hard, but I met a lot of local families,” and she began to feel connected to the Gunnison Valley. Emily graduated from WCU in 2014 with a major in sociology and minors in theater and art. 

Emily moved to Crested Butte and began working in property management, skiing and just living the life. In the summers, she’d work with the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre and at the Ruby of CB. But after a couple of years, she felt she was stagnating. “I mean, I was still scrubbing toilets and not accomplishing the things I had wanted to accomplish. I always had a dream of running my own business, of being an entrepreneur, but you need experience to do that. I needed some time to get more skills, although I didn’t really know what I needed.” She just needed a change. So in 2015, Emily moved back to New England.

Moving in with her best friend in Salem, Massachusetts, she took on office job for the experience and worked in the finance office of a boatyard. She pursued her love of theater with the Marblehead Community Theatre as a stage manager. And then her father was diagnosed with leukemia in 2018, and Emily moved home to help care for him. “I was thankful I had those years at the nursing home in Gunnison which gave me the skill sets to take care of him.”  In 2020, her dad was doing really well so she moved back to Salem, but by the end of 2020, her dad’s condition had gotten worse. “He passed peacefully at home with all of us there. I’m thankful I got to spend the time with him.” His passing was a catalyst for Emily. 

She had dated Michael Sharan while she was living in Crested Butte and the two had remained friends all those six years she was back in Salem. Right after her father passed, Michael’s house in CB burned down. The dog they had gotten together, Luna, perished in the blaze. After discussions and a re-romance, they decided to go for it again. The couple found a home in Gunnison and Emily moved back in April of 2021. Within days after her return, she got a finance position with the town of Mt. CB. Emily and Michael married in 2022. 

“I’m never not working, it’s a theme in my life,” she smiles. “I feel like I have a really good support system here. The drive is a pain but it’s the price we pay to live in Paradise.” They bought a house in Gunnison this past autumn. “It’s a cute little 1940s cottage, like the ones that were back in Asbury Grove,” reminding her of her childhood she says. “A little piece of home out here in the wild west.”

In the past two years Emily’s been involved in Crested Butte Mountain Theatre productions, working with Paul Edwards who was the artistic director at the time, as well as one of her WCU professors. Last spring, she and some friends decided to start their own theater production company, “For the love of the craft, and it’s feeling like a dream come true,” she says of Firebird Theatre. 

“We’ve got a really great and passionate team. There are about nine of us in the core. We’re hoping to grow where we can work with other organizations and help with their fundraising and to provide opportunities for kids’ programming and performances, and to provide high quality adult shows so my friends and I can continue doing what we love. You’ll probably see me onstage in the next year. Everything I’ve been through and everything I’ve worked toward has been leading up to this. My father, who was Rooster in Annie when I was a kid, I think would be really proud of me for this.” And being back in Crested Butte, Emily says, “I feel like I am rooted. I love this community. I love the access to being able to play outside, skiing and hiking, but more than anything, it’s the community that keeps me here.” 

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