The History of Creede Repertory Theatre
With the decline of the mines, the city of Creede needed a new source of income and quickly, too. The Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) met with pastor Jim Livingston and brainstormed about how to secure an attraction for summer visitors with the hope of stimulating business activity. Pastor Livingston loved the theatre and, out of that love, a vision for Creede was born. They agreed to bring performances to the old opera/movie house. But to have performances, they needed performers, which were hard to find in the mining community. Still determined, the Jaycees drafted a letter and mailed it to various universities, hoping that some excited students would answer the call to help build a summer theatre. One of those letters was posted on a bulletin board at the University of Kansas. Steve Grossman, a theatre student, saw the letter, took it down, and answered it. It was the only response the Jaycees received.
Under the direction of Steve Grossman (age 19), 12 students drove from KU to Creede. The Jaycees joined them, and with $32 in the bank, they mounted the first season. Program ads were sold, the hardware store established an open line of credit, and the 12 tireless students rehearsed. When they weren’t rehearsing, the KU students built the scenery, sewed the costumes, found or made props, lit the stage, and sold tickets for $1. The opening show, Mr. Roberts, electrified the Creede audience and received an enthusiastic standing ovation. Most people in that audience had never seen live theater. The KU students went on to mount four more plays: The Bat, Our Town, The Rainmaker, and Born Yesterday (a new play every week!) and ran them all in repertory.
This founding company of 12 established three important keystones of CRT: a repertory schedule, a meaningful variety of plays, and the creation of an ensemble. This still holds firm more than 43 years later. The rotating repertory schedule constitutes one of the most exciting and challenging ways to present a season of plays. It allows a visitor to Creede to see five or six different plays in a week. Such programming is difficult to do; however, and only a handful of theaters in the United States currently attempt this rigorous schedule.
For more than 45 seasons, visitors and theater practitioners alike have made their pilgrimages to Creede for the beauty and the artistry of the CRT. Thanks to the enthusiasm of our patrons, there is now an extended fall season, which plays through September. With the closing of the Homestake Operation in 1984, Creede’s last mine, the theater has become the largest summer employer—over 60 company members in 2009. The economic goals of the Jaycees have been realized as well. Today the CRT has an annual economic impact of $2,749,000 locally and $4,114,000 to the state of Colorado.