By Natalie Edwards

This summer, the student-run Western Theatre Company, in collaboration with Spencer Musser and Steve and Heather Hughes, are producing the first annual GVTF, or Gunnison Valley Theatre Festival.

GVTF will take place outdoors in the Quigley Bandshell, running the entire month of June with weekend performances. This includes live theatre, the Disabilities Film Festival, live music played by several local bands, and a featured performance by Boomtown, an improv team from Creede Repertory Theater.

Rehearsals for the three theatrical productions have already begun. Professor Steven Cole Hughes is hard at work directing Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing while local theatre artist Heather Hughes does double duty, directing John Cariani’s Almost, Maine and Finegan Kruckermeyer’s Love.

Preparation for the inaugural Gunnison Valley Theatre Festival relies on student involvement. Twelve actors, nine of whom are current Western students, have been cast in the three plays that will be featured at GVTF, many having been cast in more than one, and are currently preparing to perform all three beginning the first weekend of June.

But acting isn’t the only skill needed to plan and execute an outdoor summer theatre festival. Students are also hard at work preparing the technical elements of each performance under the direction of Western’s Technical Director of Theatre Spencer Musser. Students have been given the opportunity to receive class credit for their efforts by enrolling in an upper-division communications summer course under the instruction of Steven Cole Hughes and Spencer Musser.

Student involvement isn’t the only thing getting this festival up and running. Community engagement is of utmost importance when bringing the arts to the masses. Many local businesses, including Mario’s, High Alpine Brewery, Firebrand Deli, Pat’s Screen Printing, and many others, are sponsoring GVTF and helping to bring art to life in the Valley.

Western Theatre Company’s Student Director and future Western graduate student, Emily Nortnik, says: “We are so thrilled to bring this dream to life this summer and share the hard work of our WTC students and our mentors Steve, Heather, and Spencer. After such a tough year, we think that celebrating the arts outside in the warm weather will be the most joyful way to spend our summer.”

For more information and updates on the Gunnison Valley Theatre Festival, follow @gunnisonvalleytheatrefestival on Instagram.