In the summer of 1959, Bette Dustin Spiro moved to Montrose from Chicago, where she had been active in radio. She wanted to put on a play, and convinced a group of friends to join her in the effort.
The first performance was produced at the old armory building on Townsend Avenue. The opening event starred Gerree Nash in “Green Grow the Lilacs.” On opening night, little did Spiro know that 57 years later, the magic she brought to Montrose would continue to thrive and grow.
The name Magic Circle Players was coined by Spiro, based on her philosophy that the theatre is comprised of a circle of people—a playwright, cast and crew, and the audience—who together produce the magic of theatre.
Spiro directed most MCP productions until she moved to Denver in 1966. But the small group didn’t let things fall by the wayside. After an extensive fundraising campaign, MCP moved to its current theater at 420 S. 12th St. in Montrose.
A typical MCP season usually includes two musicals, a drama, a comedy and one other play. At least one production is suitable for the entire family. In the summer, MCP offers Theatre for Children, a camp for children in third grade through middle school.
Evolution takes center stage
Though MCP is nearly 60 years old, it’s showing no signs of slowing down. With the help of grants and a crew of volunteers, the theater expanded in 2013 to provide storage for costumes, sets and props.
The theater’s office manager Lisa Rediger said it’s important that the group itself evolves, too.
“We want to grow and expand the diverse ethnicity represented on stage,” she said. “We want to see those in the age bracket of 20-40 years old become involved. Of utmost importance to us is we want to maintain the integrity of our founding principles, which involves families and groups of friends doing this together. While growing in excellence and quality we want to care for our volunteers, too. They are the heart of the theatre.”
A strong support network
MCP has the distinction of being the oldest continuously running theatre group on the Western Slope. This is largely due to the dedication of its volunteers.
“Our volunteers make us successful,” said Rediger. “People have come together because of the love of theatre and invest themselves. They see the power and influence of the dramatic arts. We love to play and the interpersonal relationships create the magic.”
MCP is a community theatre, meaning auditions are open to the public for every production. If you love theatre but acting isn’t your gift, there are other options.
“Ushering is a good place to start,” Rediger said. “You see the show for free and have the opportunity to connect with other volunteers.”
Other opportunities include overseeing props and costumes, assisting with the children’s theatre, performing maintenance, working with lights and sound, helping with the newsletter or website, building sets and more. A willingness to learn is all that is required.
Spiro’s philosophy of theatre hinged on education. For her, it was the director’s responsibility to provide a well-rounded season, to expand the horizons of the audience, and to help actors and technicians develop their talents. Today, the MCP board of governors has taken that philosophy to heart.
Thanks to endless hours of support, hard work and love of theatre, Spiro’s legacy lives on.