Theater company ending 11-year run in southern Colorado

By Jen Mulson Updated: December 9, 2017 at 4:53 pm • Published: December 7, 2017 0
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Thin Air Theatre Company is living up to its name and vanishing from its Butte Theater home in Cripple Creek.

After more than 50 productions, the resident professional group won't return after its 11th season, which ends with a Dec. 30 performance of playwright Chris Sorensen's "Angel of the Christmas Mine" and a Christmas-themed olio.

The company isn't disappearing for good, though. Thin Air's Artistic Producing Director Chris Armbrister is on a nationwide hunt for a new venue in need of a resident theater company. He's not excluding another Colorado location.

"We're still going strong," Armbrister said. "We need somewhere to perform."

The City of Cripple Creek, which owns The Butte Theater, approached Armbrister and offered him a flat fee to run a professional theater company out of the venue. The company's first show was in 2007, and the relationship was copacetic until several years ago. Conflict began between Thin Air and The Butte Theater's board, which formed three years ago to help generate income.

"It comes down to artistic and financial issues between The Butte Theater board and Thin Air," said Armbrister. "The simplest way to put it is: Thin Air and the way they feel that a professional theater should be run is different."

The Butte Theater board declined an interview but sent a news release noting that Mountain Repertory Theater was awarded the in-house theater company contract for the 2018 professional season. A season announcement will be made within the next month.

"This marks a significant change for The Butte Theater," says the release. "We express much appreciation to Thin Air Theatre Company for providing 11 years of professional theater on our stage."

The Butte is funded through ticket sales, donations, corporate sponsors and the City of Cripple Creek. Most of the money is spent on actors, directors, sets, costumes and props, though a small portion is set aside for administration expenses.

Thin Air staged five or six shows during the season, from May through December, and employed professional actors and directors from across the country. Community members often were cast in the annual holiday shows, and local children sometimes appeared in other shows, such as last summer's Tony Award-winning musical "Annie Get Your Gun."

The new professional company's season also will run May through December, and Mountain Repertory will increase its shows to seven: a comedy, melodrama, two musicals, a drama and Halloween and Christmas shows.

Armbrister will miss his comrades on stage most of all.

"Especially on Christmas shows," said Armbrister, who lived half the year in Cripple Creek and the other half in Virgina. "There were so many I got to work with and then see all over Cripple Creek. The people of Cripple Creek have been great to work with."

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