Sep 172008
 
Authors: kelly bleck

With 36 seasons under its belt, OpenStage Theatre continues to produce shows that feature local practicing actors and actresses.

“We started the company because of my husband’s [Bruce] crazy idea,” creator Denise Freestone said. “The belief we’ve carried is that an artist should be able to make a living in the community of their choice.”

Opened in 1973 by the couple, OpenStage Theatre presents a season of six productions, each running for five weeks.

This season consists of: “Little Shop of Horrors;” “As you Like it;” “Doubt;” “The Book of Liz;” “Anon(ymous);” and “Pride and Prejudice.” “Little Shop of Horrors” kicked off the season and will be showing until Sept. 27.

Although the couple started the theatre to make a living, they have touched people’s lives along the way.

“I’ve been working with [OpenStage] for about four years now,” said Nikki Gibbs, a CSU alumnus. “One of my professors then was auditioning for a play there, and I went up for it, and that’s how I got involved. I’m performing in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and the next production, ‘As You Like it.’ It’s a great company to work for, very welcoming. I’m treated like family.”

Lenny Scovel has been an actor with OpenStage for 21 years along with being the company representative to the board of directors.

“OpenStage is an outstanding organization,” Scovel said. “It’s unique, and those of us inside think that, but it’s also reinforced from the outside when people from Denver are working with us, and they think the same.”

According to the group’s Web site, OpenStage employs the “longest practicing and most renowned theatrical producers in the state.”

The not-for-profit theatre aims to “nurture artists into expanding their craft,” Denise said.

“The nature of the business is competitive,” Scovel said. “It’s petty, back-biting, an every one for himself business. OpenStage has fostered a culture of creative cooperativeness, where all artists share a sense of ownership.”

OpenStage pays their actors a small stipend upon being hired. Denise said it has become more of a challenge than first expected to pay the actors.

“The stipend is not contingent on whether the show has flopped or if it was good,” Scovel said. “It’s from the productions budget, which in turn is made up of sales, sponsorships and grants. The ticket sales are never enough to cover the cost of production, unless it’s Broadway.”

Each show produced is a culture of interaction, Denise said. The shows are combinations and contrasts of classical, contemporary, comedic and dramatic productions.

OpenStage Etc., a branch of OpenStage created in 1999, produces more contemporary plays while OpenStage is trying to get a stronger combination of all genres. OpenStage Etc. presents three productions this season, “The Oldest Profession,” “Third” and “The Maiden’s Prayer.”

All plays are produced with the audience in mind, Denise said.

“The heart of the show is the audience. We have the belief that when the audience shares the experiences of the heart, mind and spirit, it provides a richer sense of community and sparks an understanding of being human.”

“Little Shop of Horrors,” now playing, is a musical. A sci-fi spoof and comedy, the “lyrics are wonderful and the actors are campy,” Denise said.

OpenStage holds auditions in the spring before each season opens, while OpenStage Etc. holds auditions for each show. For more information and show times visit

Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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