News Column

Trinidad theater

June 25, 2014

By Anthony A. Mestas, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

June 25--TRINIDAD -- The Famous Department Store building in downtown Trinidad has seen its share of tenants since it opened in the 1880s.

It's been occupied ever since.

The Tarabino family operated it then and more than 130 years later, the family still owns the landmark building, but now it houses something entirely different -- a repertory theater.

From Los Angeles to Trinidad, Harriet and Fred Vaugeois have created the Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre and it is housed in the vintage building now called The Famous Performing Arts Center, 131 W. Main St.

"In 2000, Fred and I moved to Colorado from Los Angeles. We retired to the area after a career of theater in Los Angeles," Harriet Vaugeois said.

The couple owned the Broadway Playhouse in California where professional actors performed year round on Broadway Avenue.

"We came here not to do theater, to retire, but we fell in love with Colorado and it was halfway between our families, so we weren't playing favorites," she said with a laugh.

"When we got more involved with the community, we realized that there might be something we could do to help spur an economic stimulus, so this organization was created in collaboration with Trinidad State Junior College."

The Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre brought in professional actors and designers for 12 years every summer.

"We did that all at the college, but one of our goals was to restore a historic building downtown and have the theater downtown as a tourist draw," Vaugeois said.

"When this building became available we talked to the landlords and said we wanted to create a theater in their building. They were thrilled to have yet another tenant in their building."

The couple moved into the building in November 2012 and has conducted a variety of shows in the new theater.

"This building is owned by John and Joe Tarabino. It has stayed in their family all the way through from generation to generation. That is amazing," Vaugeois said.

Vaugeois said she asked the brothers to name the theater the Tarabino Performing Arts Center, but the brothers didn't like the idea.

"They wanted it to be called The Famous Performing Arts Center. To me that is so indicative of this entire area, Pueblo as well, that families who have stayed here generation after generation have such love of their history," Vaugeois said.

"They weren't interested in promoting their family name. They wanted to maintain the history."

The Vaugeoises also run the year-round Resident Theatre Company and the Youth Theatre Company in the off-season at the theater.

"This is where the local actors perform. We provide training and classes for local people who want to learn not only about acting, but also designing, lights and sound and promotion," Vaugeois said.

The professional company, which started its new production earlier this month, has actors who come from New York, Florida, California and Chicago. Local actors also are getting their first professional credit in the new summer shows.

"Our goal is to build this so it is self-sufficient. We have a new director moving here from Los Angeles and more and more actors are moving here. Our goal is to be able to step aside at some point," she said.

Fred Vaugeois has turned an old department store into a theater with portable risers and a stage.

"We have not touched the integrity of this historic building," he said. "Except for a few screw holes," his wife chimed in. The couple said they have had a lot of help with equipment from people who got their start with them in Los Angeles.

"It's amazing how they come through to help us create this theater," Harriet Vaugeois said.

She said she enjoys the small town atmosphere in Trinidad.

"One time I was in a grocery store and a women told me thank you for what we were doing. She walked away and I thought, 'Oh my goodness, all of those years of schooling. All of those years of competing at the level we had to compete at Los Angeles wasn't our career,' " she said.

"That was all getting us ready to come here because L.A. didn't need another professional theater, but this place had nothing like this. That is so positive to us."

The summer shows include a performance of "Oklahoma!" (opens June 20), "The Liar," (opens July 5) and "One Man, Two Guvnors" (opens July 18).

For more information, call 719-846 4765.

anthonym@chieftain. com


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Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)

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