CRESTED BUTTE - Hana Keegan ’17 has been visiting Crested Butte, CO since she was 8 years old, gradually becoming more engaged with the local community. During the summer of 2016, she contacted Harry Woods, the artistic director of the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre to learn more about his work.Their hour-long conversation and Wood’s enthusiasm to support young artists sparked the beginnings of what would become Keegan’s senior project.
Having been involved in theatrical productions at COA, Keegan saw in Crested Butte a great opportunity to pair her love of theater production with community engagement and political discussion. She chose to produce “Waiting for Lefty,” a 1935 play about a union of rowdy cab drivers debating whether or not to go on strike. She originally thought that it would be interesting to stage the play in consideration of the growing gap between tourism and affordable housing for locals in Crested Butte. However, she feels that the play may also be significant in light of the recent U.S. presidential election.
“I’m interested in how the process of producing ‘Waiting for Lefty,’ an agit-prop play, may or may not compel local residents and stimulate conversations about socio-economic gentrification, town-housing policies, and what it means to be politically engaged in a community,” Keegan said.
Initial work on the production began this month, and casting is now underway. The final performances of the play will take place in March 2017 on the wooden floors of the historic Town Hall building, which the Mountain Theatre runs as an open space for youth arts programs and community productions. Keegan is managing all aspects of production, including rehearsal, costuming, set design, tech, dramaturgy, community outreach, and public relations.
“It is incredibly exciting to have this opportunity to engage with the community in new ways. I can’t wait to see how ‘Waiting for Lefty’ may become meaningful to Crested Butte through the process of working with local actors and artists,” Keegan said. “I strongly believe that theatre practitioners do not create work to impart a pre-determined message. Instead, we create work that is personally meaningful, share it on stage and then ask the audience, ‘What did that mean to you?’ This is where the most exciting conversations begin.”
Keegan has recently been asked by the head of the theatre to also run a weekly middle-school and high-school drama club between January and March 2017. Inspired by her classes with Jodi Baker, COA’s Performing Arts professor, she is currently working on a syllabus that uses theatre to raise questions about race, gender, human rights, and other social justice issues. Keegan is also talking to representatives of the Colorado Peace Museum, Old Rock Library, and Crested Butte Heritage Museum about holding open discussions of the play and its relevance to the current political climate.
“Through participating in the productions of ‘The Sneeze’ and ‘The Odyssey’ at COA, I discovered that I find immense joy in collaborative, creative work,” Keegan said. “As my first time directing, this project is challenging me to investigate how I can lead a group of artists through a collective, creative process. I am absolutely loving the work so far!”
“Waiting for Lefty” was written by Clifford Odets in 1935. The play raises questions of labor, love, money, morality, and workers’ rights. When it was first staged, audiences instantly began laughing, whistling, and shouting along with the actors. “It is a classic example of American theatre activism, an unapologetically fast-paced investigation of how and why we decide to take political action,” Keegan said.
Follow the process of the production of “Waiting for Lefty” by signing up for email updates at https://waitingforleftycb.wordpress.com/, and liking the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/waitingforleftycb.