A Theatre Group (ATG) began in January 1989 in response to the community’s request to re-establish a theatre in Silverton. A group of interested persons started to meet weekly at the Public Library to read plays. Production activity began in May 1989 and in September 1989, after two successful productions, the group was incorporated as a non-profit corporation. By the end of our 21st season (2009) over 147 productions had been performed.
For the first two years, rehearsals and productions were held in bars, restaurants, the Town Hall, and the Public Library. In October 1990 ATG leased the top floor of the Miners Union Hall from American Legion Post 14. By the opening night of the Miners Union Theatre in July 1991, ATG had installed the necessary fire escape and cleaned and repaired the space. Rewiring to code was completed in 1993; restoration of the building began in 1994 and was completed in 1998. More than $350,000 went into the local economy from the restoration project. ATG invested over $400,000 in improvements to the building in the 15 years it occupied the second-floor providing arts and community activity space. In 2003 a local patron donated Block 109 to the theatre for the construction of a new arts center. ATG’s lease on the Miners Union Theatre expired in December 2005. We have come full circle in terms of space: we are once again out in the community rehearsing and performing in restaurants and hotels and are working to secure a permanent space for arts and community activities. In May of 2008, we broke ground and began laying the foundation for the new performing arts center on block 109, finally securing ownership of the land (appraised asset of $204,000.00)
Youth programs and working with the Silverton School have always been a top priority for ATG. Our first joint production with the Silverton School was in 1990; two joint productions a year were scheduled through 2002 (when the drama teacher left). In Spring 2006 and 2007, we again did a joint production with the school (in the school music room); an ATG Board member is now teaching theatre in a “specialties” section at the school, and ATG provided technical support and equipment for the Christmas program for the past three years. ATG and the School were original participants in the Arts Education Equity Network, an NEA pilot project with the Colorado Dept. of Education. This developed into the Young People’s Theatre Training Program for ages 12-20. In 1992 in partnership with UC-Denver, ATG started a summer day camp for children ages 5-12 with classes and activities in theatre, music, fine arts, and recreation. The 8-week camp meets the need for enriching activities in a safe environment for the town’s children and continues to be the only organized summer activity for children in the community. The camp and training program has morphed into the Silverton Summer Youth Program (SSYP).
Silverton has not had a movie theatre for over 15 years. In 1997, in partnership with the CU-Denver Film Center and Colorado Public Radio, ATG started a Classic Film Series. Howie Movshovitz of the Center and CPR presented films 4-6 times a year in Silverton and conducted discussions before and after the showings. This program, suspended in 2006 because of space requirements, was reinstated in 2009.
In 1998, ATG and theatre companies in Lake City, Gunnison, and Crested Butte established the Southwest Colorado Community Theatre Festival. ATG hosted the first two festivals and serves on the steering committee. The Festival is comprised of activities that allow sharing of expertise and solutions to increase artistic excellence and meet the cultural needs of communities. Each year it is held in a different town; Crested Butte hosted the 2008 Festival.
In 2000, ATG created the New Artist Series, a program where prominent playwrights from throughout the U.S. are invited to the workshop and develop a new play for three weeks in residency. Community members, youth, college interns, and professional actors all participate in staged readings and talkback sessions, which occur in late July and early August of each year.
A Theatre Group was awarded the El Pomar Howbert Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities in 1998 and a Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1999.