The Picketwire Players of La Junta, CO celebrate 50 years in the Arkansas Valley with the 2018 season.
Mickie Awards and annual meeting at 7 p.m. Saturday in Picketwire Theater

The Picketwire Players of La Junta, CO celebrate 50 years in the Arkansas Valley with the 2018 season. “There is nothing more exciting than live theatre,” proclaimed Picketwire’s President of the Board, Tracey Salzbrenner. “Live theatre creates an extraordinary connection between the artists and the audiences. The air is absolutely electric every time the lights dim and the actors come on stage!” Salzbrenner said the Board of Directors and a 50th Anniversary Committee are working furiously to prepare for a celebration this July. In addition, the whole season features four plays that represent the past and future of the theatre. [Note: the 2018 season of plays will be announced this Saturday.] To celebrate the past five decades, Picketwire must first start by paying tribute to a group of people who followed their passion fifty years ago to create a live theatre for our community. Under the spell of then La Junta High School drama teacher, Mickie Miller, this group presented its first show – a melodrama: “Laura of the Shadows”. That was followed by some drawing room comedies and then the tradition of presenting a big, summer musical each year. In 1976, Picketwire was able to purchase the deserted Herren Junior High School auditorium. With much renovation and improvement over the decades, the Picketwire Center for Performing and Visual Arts was born. It is still located in this historic WPA building at 802 San Juan Avenue. The improvements have made Picketwire a state-of-the-art theatre with upgraded LED lighting, modern sound, and a projection system enabling productions to provide special effects. In fact, Picketwire is one of the only true community theatres that owns a building and operates completely with volunteers only. In preparing for the 50th year, the current Board has picked up the mantle of preserving and improving the building the past few years. As mentioned above, new lighting, sound, and projection systems were installed. [Note: the sound system was purchased through a memorial donation from the Mayda Nel Strong family.] In addition, new stage curtains with safety rigging were installed and a new ticketing system was implemented. The new system enables people to purchase tickets online and actually choose their own seats on line as well. Decades of donated props, costumes and tools have been cataloged, organized and labeled to make it easier to check out and check back in whatever is needed to produce each play. New paint has brought back to life hallways, the Mickie Miller-Knight Lounge, and the exterior doors. One project anticipated by all production directors and technical wizards is the completion of the Ken Schroll Memorial light booth. This newly erected light booth should be completed before spring and will enhance production and technical capabilities as well as provide secure storage for microphones, head sets, and other technical equipment. “Running this non-profit has truly been a labor of love by those who have led the organization over the past five decades,” said Salzbrenner, “as well as for those who worked tirelessly to protect the creative process, and for those who supported us along the way and enjoyed watching the stories that were presented on our stage year after year.” Pickewire’s 50th anniversary also includes three days of special events this summer. On Thursday, July 12, 2018, Picketwire welcomes back its alumni of performers, patrons, and community supporters for a Gala dinner and special auction. On Friday, July 13, “Fifty Fabulous Years – A Retrospective Show” will be performed, offering highlights of various musical numbers from 50 years of musicals; and on Saturday, July 14, is Picketwire’s 2018 summer musical opening night. Picketwire’s theatre has explored diverse perspectives, experienced new ideas and entertained thousands with amazing stories. It has sparked a million conversations, provided non-stop laughter, and inspired thoughtful conversations. People leave our Center humming along with a song, discussing a scene, and asking when they can come again. “For those of us working during this 50th year,” concluded Salzbrenner, “we are well aware that we stand here today because we were helped by each generation before us. We also know that it is our responsibility to pass on that energy to the next generation.” The first event of Picketwire’s fiftieth year is this Saturday, Jan 27. Picketwire will hold its annual meeting at 7:00 PM in the theatre (802 San Juan Avenue, La Junta), followed by the annual Mickie Awards. The event is open to all players and patrons. Nominated for awards from performances during 2017 are: Best Technician: Lena Figueroa (Lighting Tech for “The Great Gatsby”), Aubrey Krengel (Orchestra Director for “Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical”), Zach Zamora (Lighting Tech for “Agnes of God”), and James Lind (Music Director/Arranger for “A Christmas Carol”). Best Supporting Actress: Natalie Summers (Jordan in “The Great Gatsby”), Katie Lagergren (Blanche in “Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical”), Jeannie Larsen (Mother Superior in “Agnes of God”), and Brenda Erwin & Caroline Finkner (Jacob Marley & The Ghost of Christmas Present in “A Christmas Carol”). Best Supporting Actor: Cody Rogers (Nick in “The Great Gatsby”), James Lind (Buck in “Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical”), and Patrick Smith (Mr. Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol”). Best Actress: Ana Mathews (Daisy in “The Great Gatsby”), Abigail Wallner (Bonnie in “Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical”), Desiree’ Goheen (Agnes in “Agnes of God”), and Heather Pidcock-Reed (Mrs. Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol”). Best Actor: John Eubank (Gatsby in “The Great Gatsby”), Stephen Mathews, Jr. (Clyde in “Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical”), and Tom Seaba (Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”). Best Director: Brenda Erwin (“The Great Gatsby”), Tracey Salzbrenner (“Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical”), Kelly Jo Smith (“Agnes of God”), and Susie Sarlo (“A Christmas Carol”).