Theatreworks celebrates 40th anniversary with shows, gala

Sept. 7, 2015

April Wefler
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In the midst of UCCS’ 50th anniversary celebrations, another area on campus is also celebrating an important milestone: Theatreworks turns 40 this year.

To celebrate their anniversary, Theatreworks has created a commemorative 40th anniversary publication and has several events planned throughout the year.

“The entire season is one large celebration,” said Drew Martorella, executive director of UCCS Presents.

Theatreworks is also planning a gala for some point during the season.

“We’re gonna have a giant party. You know, what the heck, the theatre doesn’t turn 40 every day,” said Murray Ross, a founding member and artistic director of Theatreworks.

In 1975, when it was founded, Theatreworks, like the UCCS campus, was much smaller.

“I don’t think any of us realized at the time that we would be one of the best professional theatres in the state. We always wanted to do the best and most engaging theater we could and I think that when you do that, then good things happen,” Ross said.

Ross was hired to teach English and theatre 40 years ago.

“When I was hired here, the campus looked a bit like a stage stop. People didn’t even know where it was. It wasn’t even on the map,” he said.

“The university needed an outreach into the community. What better place is there than in the theater?”

By the time Martorella, former executive director of Theatreworks, joined the Theatreworks team 20 years later, Ross had brought the company to great brand recognition, but it lacked in performances.

“We didn’t have much of a season to speak of,” Martorella said.

In June 1995, “we knew we were going to do a Shakespeare play in the summer, but we actually had no idea what we were going to do the following fall, so we put together two plays for the fall,” Martorella said.

“It was just me and Murray, a half-time/part-time employee, and that was it.”

“Our growth and development has been slow and steady all through the years and I think that has served us very well. At the time when you’re sort of starting your work, you’re just taking it one day at a time until the path emerges before you.”

The 2015-2016 season kicks off with “Private Lives,” which runs Sept. 10-27. Next is Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” from Oct. 22 to Nov. 8.

“I’m excited to go see ‘Ghosts,’” said Eleanor Sturt, junior theatre major. “My goal is to see every show.”

“Born Yesterday,” (“a fabulous comedy about America,” said Ross,) runs Dec. 3-24; “Satchmo at the Waldorf,” runs from Feb. 18 to March 6 starring John Douglas Thompson (“widely recognized as one of the best stage actors in the community,” said Ross); “Girl of the Golden West,” runs April 28 to May 15, which Ross said hasn’t been performed since 1910.

“[It’s a] really fun play that’s actually in a way connected to our own roots here in the west,” he said.

The UCCS student production, “Archangels Don’t Play Pinball” shows from March 31 to April 10.

All productions are free for students to attend.

Sturt said she would like to see Theatreworks expand their audience.

“I’d like to see them do something directed at kids. I think that’d be fun,” she said.

Ross and Martorella look forward to the future of Theatreworks.

“I’m very excited about the future of arts and culture here at UCCS. The future looks so bright for our theater,” Martorella said.

“I want to keep building our theater,” Ross said. “We’re already one of seven professional theatres in Colorado and I hope within the next seven years that we’ll continue to raise our standards and our community so that we’ll move toward having even a national reputation.”

“I think we have done the best theatre that you possibly could over 40 years.”