Lake Dillon Theatre Company strikes gold in Silverthorne

Silverthorne Performing Arts CenterPhotos from Friday’s grand opening of the new $9 million Silverthorne Performing Arts Center. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Lake Dillon makes big splash with three new theatres that are already stimulating Summit County economy

By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist

They call it the $9 million email, and it is now framed in the lobby of the new Silverthorne Performing Arts Center that opened to great fanfare last night with the opening performance of Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s Sister Act, The Musical.

It’s a remarkably ordinary email dated Aug. 15, 2013, written by Artistic Director Christopher Alleman confirming an upcoming meeting with Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland.

SILVERTHORNE. Lake Dillon“The truth is, it was a really boring email,” Hyland said. But the drama hidden between the keystrokes was anything but. The acclaimed Lake Dillon Theatre Company, which had been presenting award-winning theatre in Dillon’s original, teeny-tiny Town Hall cabin since 1995, would soon be made homeless. The town of Dillon planned to redevelop the historic site, so it was time for the theatre company to find a new home.

That boring email was the start of a beautiful relationship with the girl, er, town next door. And that partnership culminated Friday with the grand opening of the $9 million Silverthorne Arts Center. The new 16,000 square-foot jewel brings the cultural heft of three performing spaces to a town best known for its sprawl of irresistible outlet shops about 70 miles west of Denver.

(Pictured above right: Curtain call after the inaugural performance of ‘Sister Act.’ Photo by John Moore.)

The deal called for Silverthorne to kick in $6.3 million and the theatre company $2.7 million. “This was the smartest thing we could have ever done,” Hyland said.

SILVERTHORNE. Lake Dillon“It is supporting arts and culture, which is such an incredibly enriching tool for our community, particularly our youth. But it is also absolutely an investment in economic development. It’s not some wild idea to say that that if you bring culture to a downtown, you can generate economic activity. It’s been proven. And this performing-arts center will be a catalyst for big things to come in this downtown.”

(Pictured above right, from left: Ryan Hyland, Chris Alleman and Joshua Blanchard. Photo by John Moore.)

When the cultural partnership was announced two years ago, Hyland said, investors immediately started to look at Silverthorne differently. “Before the first shovel went into the ground, we secured a 32-unit condo development across the way that I can attribute directly to this partnership,” Hyland said. “There is also a brewery and a new restaurant coming, so we haven’t even started yet.”

SILVERTHORNE. Lake DillonThe Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, located in the Town Center at 4th Street and Blue River Parkway, is anchored by a still-intimate 165-seat mainstage theatre called The Flex, where Sister Act opened Lake Dillon’s 23rd season on Friday and plays through Aug. 13. To maximize space, the orchestra performs live in a specially constructed studio next to the backstage dressing rooms.

The 60-seat studio theatre next door will remind faithful Lake Dillon theatregoers of the company’s longtime cramped cabin home just a mile up Highway 6 in Dillon. That opens with the musical adaptation of the movie Ghost on July 1, running through Aug. 27. There is also a small classroom theatre that will host the company’s Lab Solo Series – successive one-actor plays Buyer and Cellar (June 30-July 9), Grounded (Aug. 11-20) and Pretty Fire (Sept. 15-24).

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When Ghost and Buyer and Cellar open, the company will have productions running in all three of its performance facilities. On most days of the week, theatregoers will have two of them to choose from.

And just outside the entrance to the very mod arts center, designed by Denver’s Oz Architecture, is an outdoor music pavilion that will bring Hazel Miller (July 8), Chris Daniels and the Kings (July 15) and comedian Jim Breuer (Sept. 13), among many others, to Summit County this summer.

SILVERTHORNE. Lake DillonThe Lake Dillon Theatre Company was conceived by Lennie Singer (mother of Denver actor Jordan Leigh) and B.J. Knapp in 1993. Alleman joined in 2002 with his partner, future Executive Director and actor Joshua Blanchard, who is nominated for a 2017 Henry Award for his performance in last year’s Cabaret. Together they have grown the organization from a $140,000 annual budget to $1.4 million. The company has maintained  a remarkably steady annual growth rate of about 13 percent.

Today the fully professional company supports nine full-time employees and an extensive theatre education program. The full summer company of actors, crew, staff and apprentices numbers 72. The company also includes Arvada Center favorite Adam Estes, who directed Sister Act and stars in Buyer and Cellar, Colorado Shakespeare Festival Henry Award nominee Hunter Ringsmith, and widely acclaimed area designers including Nick Kargel, Brian Mallgrave, Vance Mackenzie and Andy Bakehouse.

The mood at Friday night’s opening celebration was euphoric. But a better description for Alleman and Blanchard might be exhausted. “I’ve gotten eight hours of sleep in the past three days,” said Alleman, whose fundraising work is not yet done.

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“Our capital campaign is actually for $3.8 million,” he said. “That includes the $2.7 million we put into the building, but also a $500,000 reserve fund, plus the cost of fundraising. We’re at $3.2 million right now, so we’re not all said and done just yet.”

SILVERTHORNE. Lake DillonJuliana Davis Ditmyer performed in Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s first show under Alleman back in 2002, And the World Goes Round. She now lives in Florida, but came back this summer to be part of this new chapter in the company’s history. She’s choreographing Ghost.  

“I was dying to be here for this,” Davis said. “When I moved to Colorado, I was still not sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was living in Leadville when I stumbled across that little barn theatre in Dillon one day. I had no idea the impact it would have on me. This has not only been an artistic outlet for me but an artistic home. And although the building and surroundings are new, the heart is the same.”

Bob Moore, who has performed at theatres across Colorado since 1965, has appeared in 17 Lake Dillon Theatre Company shows, including the Monsignor in Sister Act. Make that 18 when he joins daughter Missy Moore in Noises Off, opening Sept. 1. (The director is his wife and her mother, Wendy Moore.)

“This is now a destination facility, both for audiences and actors,” Bob Moore said. Missy Moore, who won the 2017 Henry Award for the Edge Theatre’s Getting Out, said, “Lake Dillon is absolutely bringing theatre in this part of Colorado to the next level.”

Recent True West Award winner Sharon Kay White, who plays Mother Superior in Sister Act, is among many professional actors from Denver who find the mountain employment with Lake Dillon to be both rewarding and fulfilling. Among Colorado theatre companies, only the Denver Center and Arvada Center make more professional contracts available to Denver actors each year, Alleman said.

“It’s such an honor to be in the inaugural show in this beautiful space lovingly built by this city that embraced this theatre company that was made suddenly homeless,” said White, who previously played Sister Mary Patrick in the Arvada Center’s production of Sister Act last year. “And my goodness: This city is so beautiful. My plan was to drive home to Denver once a week all summer, but now I think I’m just staying up here all the time.”

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She said the quality of theatre in Silverthorne “fares great” in comparison to Denver’s best theatres. “It’s just bustling with activity. Everything feels new.”

But while the summer of 2017 may be all about the new, Bob Moore says not everything has changed.

“I would describe backstage at the old theatre as … very tight,” he said with a smile.  I mean, you really got a chance to know your fellow actors there. I remember a couple of times changing my clothes in the car.”

And the new place?

“Well, I would describe backstage at this theatre – for this particular show – as the same. But here’s the difference: There are 22 cast members in the show.” 

That’s new.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.


The opening-night afterparty following ‘Sister Act.’ Photo by John Moore.

At the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, 970-513-9386 or
Through Aug. 13: Sister Act
June 30-July 9: Buyer and Cellar
July 1-Aug. 24: Ghost
Sept. 1-17: Noises Off
Aug. 11-20: Grounded
Sept. 15-24: Pretty Fire

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