Miners Alley Playhouse is one of the few arts organizations that has found a way to not only survive during pandemic restrictions, but literally thrive.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Miners Alley Playhouse, like many theaters across the state and country, faced a very uncertain future. Now, producer art director Len Matheo is getting hugs all over Golden…something unheard of at the height of the pandemic.
“I’ve had people hugging me on the street, who I don’t know…crying, saying, ‘Please don’t let this turn into condos. Thank you for saving our downtown. The town planning people, where they look at our plans, give us a hug. said Matheo. “So it’s become a real community in Golden. It’s quite sweet in many ways. It’s pretty cute.
Why are they kissing Matheo?
When the Meyer Hardware building in downtown Golden went up for sale last year, venue officials – and the city of Golden – decided to take a big risk, to win millions of dollars and try to turn it into Miners Alley Performing Arts Centre. It’s the same kind of unwavering attitude that has kept the theater house through the pandemic.
“We’ve thrived in the sense that we haven’t stopped doing our job. Of course, we lost money, but we, but we didn’t fire anyone,” Matheo said. “We have continued to pay our staff throughout the pandemic. We did summer camps outside. And then the hardware store went up for sale.
Matheo said the city government of Golden invested $2 million to help close the deal. Other participating partners include Miners Saloon, Golden Civic Foundation, Downtown Development Authority and Stone Strategy Design.
Matheo thought that a developer would certainly outbid the consortium and eventually get the property.
“But we put together a very compelling package with a story about [how] this hardware store was a community center for many people, and that we were taking this community center to the next level without destroying it and creating something different,” Matheo said. “We were just reinventing this community center and making it bigger and nicer. And they saw our vision and decided to let us buy the hardware store.
The project is budgeted between $10 million and $15 million with plans for a 300-seat performing arts center, black box spaces for other shows, and potentially a restaurant.
But Miners Alley isn’t waiting for their new space to be ready to put on their next show. They are currently directing the musical Hair. The show looks at the youth of the 60s, the “tribe” struggling with generational and personal identity, the Vietnam War, drugs, hippie culture and the sexual revolution.
“I wanted to have a show that was really the epitome of Miners Alley vibe, which is professional theater with a community vibe,” Matheo said.
He was motivated to produce Hair because the pandemic was preventing people from gathering in public places.
“But what I didn’t realize when I originally cast it is how little has changed today and one of the biggest issues with this show is about our teenagers in our world. and these teenagers who are different today, different issues, but some very similar issues,” Matheo said.
HAIR has iconic songs that everyone seems to know, but one of the ideas behind this production is to revisit them, said music director David Nehls.
“Because so many songs are iconic and we know them so well, my goal is to let you hear them as if you were hearing them for the first time,” Nehls said.
Putting its own brand on Hair was easier due to the simplicity of the musical arrangements when the company first got them.
“Well, here’s the good news and the bad news. So the licensing house that sends the material for Hair…the material that they send is very basic. So you actually have a big canvas to play with and create with.
Matheo chose the 2009 Broadway revival script as the starting point for this production.
“I chose it because I wanted to create a celebration and I wanted to create a sense of belonging and community in my theater space. So far so good, the audience is dancing in the aisles and jumping for joy,” said Matheo. “And also, their hearts open up as they also watch the show. So it’s a really nice experience.
It may take some time for the permanent space to be ready to welcome minors, but if all goes according to plan, the public will eventually see performances…and dance in the aisles…at a brand new venue in Golden – some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
The rock musical, Hair, plays at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden until October 2.