High Drama: Colorado's Historic Theatres

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9781932738186: High Drama: Colorado's Historic Theatres
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Beth and Daniel Barrett give us a wonderful overview of Colorado’s theatrical legacy, which is as rich as the state’s fabled mining history, and not surprisingly the two are related. As Colorado settlements grew more permanent they sought to provide a modicum of culture and sophistication for their residents by establishing drama, singing, and lecture groups, as well as hosting touring entertainment. Every potential city needed a large theatre as a symbol of wealth and refinement.

With the coming of the railroad, the rough mountain camps were introduced to the golden age of touring theatre groups. Theatregoers in Colorado were able to see some of the greatest actors of the age. Lawrence Barrett, Otis Skinner, Helena Modjeska, and Sarah Bernhardt all appeared before rapt audiences. Shakespeare was performed more often than any other playwright. Melodrama was a favorite with the audience, as were sensation dramas. Musical entertainment and grand opera often filled the stage. Less weighty fare included minstrels, vaudeville, and burlesque.

Ironically, most of the theatres that survive today are in small mountain towns that were the hardest hit by the economic downturn at the end of the nineteenth century. The state’s largest cities lost almost all their historic theatres to urban renewal and public apathy. The Barretts have selected representative theatres from across the state – some still standing and some long gone.

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