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Back Stage Antics ~ Favorite Memories

Salida Colorado's Stage Left Theater was founded in 2001 by Gregory West and Shelley Jacobs. This community theater delivered performances three or four times a year until it was dissolved in 2017.


The theatre is in the Steam Plant building on the banks of the Arkansas River in Salida, Colorado. In Stage Left's early years, a vacant unheated room with a dirt floor and brick walls -- known as the Pigeon Room -- served as a rehearsal room and a place to store props, sets, and costumes. It was called the Pigeon Room, because, well, pigeons roosted in the iron rafters. 


Adjacent to the stage was the green room where voices were kept at whisper levels as the room was not soundproofed, but was painted green; a door opened to the side of the building where smoke breaks occurred and where one could speak loudly.  To change sets during these early years, the backstage crew hauled the furniture from the Pigeon Room, down a dark hallway, through the green room, and then onto the stage. The area directly behind and on the sides of the stage curtains was less than three feet wide.

Over time, the Pigeon Room was converted into a beautiful venue for dinners and events; the backstage was enlarged to store the sets for the current performance, making scene changes a whole lot easier. 

I first volunteered for the backstage crew for the Christmas production in 2003. Eileen, encouraged this action as I had come to despise the holidays being away from my family (all on the east coast). Getting involved in rehearsals and productions quickly overcame my low spirits and becoming part of this amazing ensemble for some 12 years not only created friendships for life but put a positive spin on our creating new traditions for the holidays. We mostly were the crew for the Christmas shows, but occasionally a director would ask for Eileen and me (because we were told, 'everything goes smoothly when we are backstage' ).

Over the years, the crew and actors came and went. Anyone who wanted to 'try' was given opportunities to construct sets, help with costuming, work the light and sound boards, wrangle kid actors, and manage props. It was great fun watching the young actors mature into grown-up roles. Participating in some of the work that is put into each performance is a humbling teamwork experience. And, during those twelve years, I dabbled with playwriting, and two of my one-act plays and a 90-minute Christmas program were performed by the Stage Left Theater.

The 'stuff' that goes on backstage is sometimes as funny as the actions in front of the curtain. And, YES there's a play about THAT!


During Tuna Christmas, (a play written for two actors to play multiple characters), Stage Left's revision had many actors playing at least one male and one female part. At one point backstage, Michael was up on a ladder affixing a battery to the alien spacecraft. Those of us holding the ladder were happy (relieved) to observe that underneath the waitress's costume, he wore boxers!  

During a show of Arsenic and Old Lace, Eileen placed a rubber snake on the tea traythat Kathleen carried onto the stage. The actress barely flinched. She got her revenge, though, as the snake appeared on Eileen's windshield months later.

During A Christmas Carole, I was responsible for a set change involving a bed that I had to drag into position. I jumped in too soon, totally missing my cue, and as I bent over and pulled the bed on the rollers, my backside was in the spotlight encroaching on the actress who was speaking.

And then there were the sets for Alice in Wonderland. I have no idea what the set builders were thinking when they built everything OVERSIZED! This was before the back stage area was renovated and when we had to haul all the sets from the Pigeon Room!


Keeping track of the props was always a challenge, even though everyone knew the cardinal rule: do not touch the props. (Greg West referred to the many props in Global Holidays as 'the props from hell.') 

The production of Wit was perhaps the most dramatic event staged during my time with Stage Left. In this extremely emotional play, Shelley Jacobs far surpassed her many previous roles. It was one of the few times I cried during a performance.

After years of maneuvering furniture and props, aiding with costume changes, and doing a good share of kid wrangling backstage, my last few years of volunteering with Stage Left were as a greeter and program distributor. 


I continue to enjoy live theater, especially local, amateur theater groups.


Those Stage Left days, and the countless number of friendships formed, will remain forever in my heart.

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