When it was founded in 1994, the Lake Dillon Theatre Company drew its talent from a pool of mostly local drama buffs, amateurs with day jobs and high school plays on their résumés. But last June the company shed its community-theater cocoon and joined the ranks of professional companies on and off Broadway as Colorado’s newest member of the Actors’ Equity Association, a union that represents more than 49,000 stage actors and managers nationwide. Bragging rights aside (LDTC is one of only eight Actors’ Equity theaters in the state), this status confers tangible benefits on the company’s thespians, such as salary guarantees, health insurance, and pension plans. And it adds a sense of gravitas to LDTC’s other plans, such as a brick-and-mortar upgrade.
“Given where we started, a lot has been accomplished in such a short period of time,” says artistic director Chris Alleman, who since 2002 has grown the organization’s annual budget from $140,000 to over $1 million. “Everyone has stepped up to the plate artistically and creatively, setting the stage for really big things in the next couple of years, including the build-out of a brand-new facility.”
Those big things are already afoot: The LDTC has ramped up its stage productions in recent seasons with live music from Broadway to Motown via its Cabaret and Sunset at the Summit Series. The theater introduced a monthly play club, through which subscribers can experience the entire process of a play’s production, from initial readings and rehearsals all the way to the final product. And company members lead youth and adult workshops, along with popular New York theater and Utah Shakespeare trips, in which patrons travel as guests of the artistic team, attend plays, and participate in moderated discussions with the performers, many of whom have direct ties to the LDTC.
“Intimacy is extremely important to our organization,” Alleman says. “Audiences are either practically on stage with us or no more than ten to twelve feet away. And the intimacy goes beyond the theater: it’s about how we interact with our patrons in the lobby or at the grocery store. We want them to feel like they are a part of our organization. It’s what really sets us apart.”
That, and a twentieth season that places the spotlight on influential people and playwrights, from Mark Twain to Neil Simon and Martin Luther King, Jr. to Johnny Cash—diverse stories rich with ambition, aspiration, and Americana.
“The shows fit really well together because each of the characters is on this great American journey,” Alleman adds. “Some of them create the journey, like Mark Twain (Big River); some of them are on the journey, like Johnny Cash (Ring of Fire!); and others, like Martin Luther King (The Mountaintop), are the journey.”
And in staging all of these shows, LDTC’s union actors now command more than journeyman’s wages.
LDTC 2014 Season Highlights
Based on Mark Twain’s classic novel, this production stages the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, on their journey down the Mississippi. Featuring an award-winning score from Roger Miller.
Ring of Fire!
Though he’s not a character on stage, Johnny Cash’s spirit—and voice—pervade this jukebox musical about love, faith, hardship, redemption, family, and home. More than a dozen classic hits are reprised, from “I Walk the Line” to “A Boy Named Sue” to the haunting title track.
A fictional retelling of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last night on earth, all from within Room 306 of Memphis’s Lorraine Motel. Tense and inspiring, King wrestles with his hopes, dreams, doubts, and fears. “This is the show I’m most excited about this season,” says Chris Alleman. “It’s a regional premiere. We have the artistic director of the Negro Ensemble Company in New York. Two of my favorite actors from the Denver Center are coming in to perform. And it was just on Broadway a couple of years ago with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett.”