Showtime in the Rockies: Vilar Performing Arts Center celebrates 20 years in Beaver Creek (Part 3) |

Showtime in the Rockies: Vilar Performing Arts Center celebrates 20 years in Beaver Creek (Part 3)

Tom Boyd
Vail Valley Foundation
The Vilar Performing Arts Center, celebrating 20 years at Beaver Creek, offers a wide palate of musical, dance, family and theater options. The theater has state-of-the-art equipment and can host an entire orchestra, a full-scale Broadway show or a one-person show that feels as intimate as gathering around the family living room.
John-Ryan Lockman | Special to the Weekly |

If you go …

What: Vilar Performing Arts Center 20th anniversary season.

When: All winter long.

More information: Visit or call 970-748-TIXS.

Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a three-part series celebrating 20 years of performances at one of Colorado’s most successful performing arts centers, the Vilar Performing Arts Center, located in the center of Beaver Creek Village beneath the Black Family Ice Rink. Read parts one and two at Tom Boyd is former editor of the Vail Trail newspaper, and a lifelong valley local who has attended scores of shows at the VPAC. He is also director of public relations and communications for the Vail Valley Foundation, which manages and operates the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

There are plenty out there who dream of one day being a part of the art and music world. Some want to be on stage, some backstage, but all of these dreams involve phone calls with famous artists, back stage parties and, of course, being part of the thriving, vibrant, complex and interesting arts world.

Take, for example, the Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC), which this year celebrates its 20th year of providing a wide palate of musical, dance, family and theater options at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain. Beautifully appointed, the theater has state-of-the-art equipment, and can host a full symphony orchestra, a four-truck-load Broadway show, or a one-person show that feels as intimate as gathering around the family living room. For Duncan Horner and the staff at the VPAC, some of those common dreams of being part of the arts world are, indeed, a reality. But the larger portion of Horner’s work, and the work of everyone involved with the VPAC, has to do with finding balance: balance between rock and classical, dance and Broadway, family shows and comedy; balance between new acts and old familiar faces; and balance between the timing and logistics that often dictate who can come to the theater, and when.

“We’ve had so much diversity over the years, and it’s been so culturally enriching for the community and everyone who’s been a part of it. As this legacy continues, we can’t lose sight of how to represent future interests which allow us to stay relevant and further bolster our programming options,” Horner says. “There’s a lot of excitement about what could be and where we could take this.”

“We’ve had a truly remarkable 20 years, and we want to make the next 20 years just as exciting and memorable as the past 20.”Alexia JurschakChair of Vilar Performing Arts Center Board of Directors

Alexia Jurschak, who is the Board of Directors chair for the VPAC, agrees with Horner.

“We’ve had a truly remarkable 20 years, and we want to make the next 20 years just as exciting and memorable as the past 20,” she said.

Cyclical effect

The VPAC wasn’t a “just-add-water” instant success (see part two of this series), but after a few years, and a few adjustments, it soon found steady footing, in part because of a unification with the Vail Valley Foundation in 2001. Primarily, however, the theater has had strong support from the Beaver Creek community, including remarkable contributions from individual patrons, a RETA assessment, as well as unflagging support from the Beaver Creek Resort Co., the Beaver Creek Property Owners Association and the Beaver Creek Metro District. Support doesn’t end there: the VPAC has support from patrons throughout the valley, the region and, in fact, from members of the community who live elsewhere but are frequent visitors to the Vail Valley.

Horner says that through careful programming the support should follow a natural cycle — the more support for the arts, the better the acts that he can book. The better the acts, the better the attendance, the better the support. And so it continues.

Rippeto, who served as the chair of the Board from 2004-16, agrees.

“A lot of the credit for setting the ship right goes to (former chair) John Galvin,” he said. “Then, after Galvin stepped down and handed the reigns to us, we began to take more risks, we began to ramp up the quality of the entertainment, paying more for acts, and believing the old saying that, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Better programming generates more contributions, and more contributions generates more great programming: It’s a great circle if you can get on the right side of it.”

The end result of this cyclical effect is a world-class theater that is surprisingly accessible. Jurschak, who lived in Chicago and New York before coming full-time to Beaver Creek, thinks the welcoming nature of the theater is one of its key components for success.

“The whole performing arts scene in the Vail Valley is what drew myself and my husband here,” she says. “For us to enjoy what New York City has to offer is actually quite difficult, just from a logistical standpoint alone. However for us to enjoy what the VPAC has to offer is so comparably easy — for anyone in Vail or Beaver Creek it’s actually quite simple to get from point A to point B, and we’re continually working on making sure getting here is as simple as possible.”

Behind the scenes

To those in the audience, it may seem like a quiet and serene place — and so it is. To the staff working the venue, however, it can often seem quite hectic.

Dean Davis has been working at the VPAC since 2006. As facilities director he oversaw the recent capital improvements that brought new seating, lighting, sound, a stage floor and many other upgrades to the theater.

“The operations of this theater are like a swan,” Davis says. “Beautiful and graceful up top, but paddling like hell against the current beneath.”

For Davis and all the staff at the VPAC, it’s clear they’ve inherited something quite special, and something that required a tremendous amount of hard work, philanthropy and community support to create and sustain.

As they celebrate their 20th year in 2018, the VPAC team will be undertaking a series of efforts to say “thank you” to the community that made the original vision a reality, and which has sustained them throughout 20 seasons, sometimes with 120 or more events and shows per year. They’ll also be engaging the community to help usher in another 20 years that promises to be just as dynamic and successful as the first 20.

Learn more about the upcoming season, or how you can support the Vilar Performing Arts Center, by visiting or calling the box office at 970-748-TIXS.

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