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Alumni Profiles

The Greatest and Best Play in The World: SonofaGunn bringing laughter to the Gunnison Valley since 1989

Four Western alumni pose at a table while working on the production of SonofaGunn

For 34 years, SonofaGunn has been a Gunnison tradition. It has also been a Western tradition.  

One of the biggest fundraisers for the Gunnison Arts Center, SonofaGunn is a community theatre production about all that makes Gunnison…well…Gunnison. A lampoon of local people and politics crossed with a comedic take on all that makes Gunnison great, Western has played a large role in pulling off this annual production, especially in recent years.  

In 2019, SonofaGunn was on the verge of retirement. After 30 years, the then production team was ready for a break. The play had served its purpose, having generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of the Arts Center, a centerpiece of Gunnison’s creative life. But one fateful night would bring SonofaGunn back to life.  

A group of actors partake in a rehearsal of SonofaGunn

Alumni Paul Giberson (‘00), Erik Kjosness (‘03), and Craig Beebe (‘02) struck up a conversation with then producers Shelly Pierson, wife of Western Dean Gary Pierson, and Jen Orth, wife of then Western professor Dale Orth, at The Dive. Upon hearing that SonofaGunn was coming to an end, the three former classmates saw an opportunity and jumped at the chance to keep SonofaGunn alive. 

Alum Julie Robinson (‘97) joined the team in 2021, bringing a new perspective as director of Habitat for Humanity and a penchant for costume design. Robinson sees SonofaGunn as “laughter therapy” for the Gunnison community.  

With no acting, writing, or producing experience, the four alumni jumped at the chance to work with the Arts Center on the local tradition.  

“We couldn’t let the tradition die.” – Paul Giberson 

Year one saw the production of It’s Always Sunny in Gunni, where it was officially decided that “Gunni” is spelled with an “i.” The Covid-19 pandemic soon followed, but the crew continued the tradition with an outside performance of Molly Get Your Gunn at the I-Bar Ranch. 3001: A Space Oddity in 2022 reflected on the pandemic and Gunnison’s strong community response as the production returned to the Arts Center’s iconic Black Box Theatre. 

“SonofaGunn sees Gunnison locals, most of whom have never acted, go from being petrified to getting a standing ovation from packed houses of neighbors, friends, and family.”   – Erik Kjosness

The production team looks forward to continuing Western’s engagement with the Gunnison Arts Center for years to come. SonofaGunn’s 34th production, “The Greatest and Best Play in the World”, took place February 23-25 and March 2-4, 2023 in the Arts Center’s Black Box Theatre

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