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Western Theatre Company: Shakespeare in the Most Unlikely of Places 

A student swings from a trapeze during a performance of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"

If there is one defining characteristic about the Gunnison Valley that has been said many times over it is that Gunnison is a home to a surprising amount of talented, driven, and inspiring individuals. This observation could not more accurately describe Western Colorado University’s student lead theatre company, Western Theatre Company (WTC). WTC offers students a unique experience of working in all areas of theatre. Under the leadership of Steven Cole Hughes, and guidance of Heather Hughes, the Western Theatre Company is quickly becoming a staple of the Gunnison community. 

Since taking over the role of Director of Theatre, Steve has made it his goal to give Western’s theatre program a focus and identity, to bring classic, beloved, plays back to life with the help of dedicated theatre students and to make theatre more accessible to the community. Currently, no other undergraduate program in Colorado offers as much Shakespeare as Western. This is no wonder, as Shakespeare runs through Steve’s blood. Steve discovered Shakespeare as an undergraduate student but it was in graduate school, during which he had the chance to learn from Tony Church, renowned Shakespearean actor that he really started to appreciate it. Tony was a founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a major British theatre company and in 1989, he became the Dean of the National Theatre Conservatory, the teaching arm of the Denver Center Theatre Company, which is where Steve had the opportunity to learn from him.  

Steve started sharing his passion with Western in 2016 when the Western Theatre Company performed Twelfth Night. As it turns out, Twelfth Night was the first play ever done at Western in 1911 when Western Colorado University was named the Colorado State Normal School. Now, the Western Theatre Company puts on three shows a year and hosts the Gunnison Valley Theatre Festival in the summer. Each year, there is at least one Shakespeare play during the regular season and one during the Festival. But Shakespeare is not all WTC does.  

“We want to bring people back to the theatre by offering plays with recognizable titles”

– Steve Hughes 

In the last few years, WTC has offered familiar favorites, such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Into the Woods, A Christmas Carol, and so much more. This Spring, the Western community will have the opportunity to see Our Town. Directed by Heather Hughes, a ’97 Western alum, this play by Thornton Wilder will have the audience realizing that 99% of their lives are spent doing the small, seemingly mundane, tasks that matter more than they know. It’s easy to believe the big moments define one’s life when it is actually quite the opposite. Our Town will have the audience wondering why they don’t value the small moments more and will urge them to slow down and take in the world around them. 

“Our Town really speaks to what Western is. So many of our students have that zest for life and come to Gunnison because of what the valley has to offer. This play will be a reminder to our audience to live life like our kids do and appreciate every moment.”

– Heather Hughes 

In an effort to continue including the community in the world of theatre, Heather Hughes has opened up auditions to the community. There will also be 2 matinees offered for free to the middle school and high school students, and a showing for the Senior Care Center. Performances will take place during the last two weekends in April.

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