Playwright: Christopher Willard
Company: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
Venue: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, 121 S. Ridge Street, Breckenridge, CO 80424
Running Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)
Date of Performance: Friday, February 21, 2014
The 10th brings the US Army's 10th Mountain Division to center stage, chronicling its Colorado connections and its impact on the Colorado ski industry. That impact was substantial; the 10th Mountain Division left a huge footprint in the Colorado high country.
Camp Hale, known to the recruits as "Camp Hell," was at 9,300 feet, between Leadville and Red Cliff. In 1943, it was the Army's training site for more than 14,000 recruits learning mountain warfare.
Camp Hale had it's own special value as a mountain training site; it was remote, isolated, and featured harsh weather conditions on a regular basis. Recruits learned to ski at what is now the Ski Cooper resort; at the time, it was about as far from a "resort" as it could possibly be.
Arguably, the 10th Mountain Division triggered the Colorado ski industry. That once remote, isolated, and harsh training environment is now a winter playground, providing about $1.5 billion annually in tourism receipts.
Christopher Willard, Artistic Director of Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, has worked overtime bringing The 10th to the stage. He wrote it. He directs it. He designed the set and the sound. If you think designing a set is easy (it's not), try to figure out how to portray skiing on a small stage. Willard's work here is obviously a labor of love, bringing both skiing and performance art together in his salute to the military roots of our mountain communities.
The plot follows new recruits at Camp Hale through their training, and ultimately, through their combat in World War II. It's an old story; young men in uniforms defending their country, looking for love in a lot of wrong places, fighting, and often dying, in wretched conditions thousands of miles from home. Like every generation of soldiers, they are brave but flawed heroes.
Willard's set is marvelous, with moving pieces, photo projections, and a distinctly military look and feel. Directing a large cast (11 actors) on such a small stage is difficult; Willard kept everything moving, with set pieces and actors always in the right place at the right time.
The script meanders somewhat, and occasionally seems to depart from its Colorado roots. Finnish immigrant Elina Sallinen is beautifully portrayed by Jaimie Morgan (recently seen in "Metamorphoses") with tenderness and charm. However, whether there was a Finnish immigrant community in 1943 Breckenridge seems unlikely, and an unnecessary script device. (Disclaimer: I'm no Colorado history expert, so I may be completely wrong about 20th century Finnish immigration to Breckenridge.) At 2.5 hours, the script might also benefit from some careful editing.
Willard assembled a talented and capable cast, and they did not disappoint. Carter Edward
Smith (Teddy Pearson) is the central character. Smith has a gift for playing the naive and shy...which is exactly the Teddy that the director/author was going for. Jon Hans (Koons) sparkles as a bad tempered bully, and Brandon Landis Folkins (Sergeant Tully) is a natural as the "in your face" drill sergeant. Hayden Winston (Valentine) shines as an expert Norwegian skier with an attitude. Bryan Roberts as "Goose Goodman" turns in a somewhat shaky performance here, delivering his lines mechanically, with little emotion or conviction.
|L-R: Carter Edward Smith, Bryan Roberts, Jaimie Morgan|
The 10th brings an important piece of Colorado history to light, and the Breckenridge venue, at the height of ski season, is a superb backdrop. If you're a skier, a military buff, or interested in preserving Colorado history, don't miss The 10th.
This show closes on March 1, 2014.
Parking is at a premium in any Colorado ski town in the winter, and Breckenridge is no exception. Plan accordingly.
Pre or post show dining suggestion: There are two excellent but casual dinner choices right across the street from the theater; Fatty's Pizza and Moe's Barbecue (I highly recommend the pulled pork sandwich). The Breckenridge Brewpub is also nearby.
Thanks to all who have served, and especially those in the 10th Mountain Division. You did us all proud.
Photo Credits: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre Company.
Director/Set Design/Sound Design: Christopher Willard
Lighting Design: Jacob Welch
Costume Design: Julie Vance
Private Gene "Goose" Goodman: Bryan Roberts
Ida Goodman: Paige Lynn Larson
Private Theodore "Teddy" Pearson: Carter Edward Smith
Alice Evans: Hannah Overton
Private Michael Wick: Brandon Palmer
Corporal Dale Hoffman: Matt Block
Private Zacharia Koons: Jon Hans
Sergeant Robert Tully: Brian Landis Folkins
Private Frank Falcone: Matthew Blood-Smyth
Sergeant "Valentine" Thorsen: Haydn Winston
Elina Sallinen: Jaimie Morgan