Backstage gets new leading man | VailDaily.com

Backstage gets new leading man

Jennifer Harper

BRECKENRIDGE – Donning sunglasses and a smile as he went out the door, former artistic director for the Backstage Theatre Jeremy Cole officially exited the Summit County stage Monday and headed for the Sunshine State. And into the spotlight entered Christopher Willard.”You’ll be fine,” Cole said to his successor as he walked out of the Backstage office on Ski Hill Road for the final time.”It’s like stepping onto a train going 70 miles per hour,” Willard said Monday, his first official day as artistic director for the theater company.A Denver resident for the past eight and a half years, Willard is no stranger to the county, having previously worked with the Lake Dillon Theatre. While in Denver, he worked at the Arvada Center and as a freelance director.”It was time to move on and create new challenges for myself,” he said. “I love (Summit County), and the people here have been really great.”As far as his intentions for the Backstage, Willard said it’s still a bit early to be implementing any plans.”To come in here with grandiose ideas is one thing, but I’m still getting my sea legs,” he said. After taking the summer to plan out the theater’s repertoire for the season, Willard is using his first few official days on the job to learn the ins and outs of his position and meet new people in the community.”I really want to maintain the quality of work Jeremy created,” Willard said.While acknowledging that Cole presented a lot of edgy theater works, Willard said he plans to reach out to the community and create a balanced season, which will include children’s theater.The new Breckenridge resident describes himself as “a small-town guy at heart who likes to keep a foot in the big city.” Willard is originally from a small community in southeast Kansas.”In a way, I’m sort of going back to my roots,” he said. Summit County may be a small community compared to Denver, but it’s definitely not small-time when it comes to the theater scene. Monday night at his first rehearsal at the Riverwalk Center for the upcoming “Backstage to Broadway,” Willard was a little wide-eyed but excited about his new role.”I’m ready to get started,” he said. “I encourage people to get involved in the theater. If they have an artistic muscle in their body, let’s flex it.”Jennifer Harper can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at jharper@summitdaily.com.