Producing Artistic Director Denise Burson Freestone

It is always a highlight of my year when I have the privilege of addressing the OpenStage Ensemble Family of Artists at the Annual Picnic. This is the time of year when all of us, in all of our talented and gloriously imperfect humanity, come together to rejoice in our collective accomplishments, to revel in our camaraderie, and to get jazzed about our future together. Welcome and my sincere thanks for being here today to celebrate OpenStage Theatre.

As we begin our 45th season, we have more to celebrate than ever before. Our incredible success at Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards – Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Outstanding Season – gives us statewide recognition for our work, especially in light of the financial and material resources in comparison to the other theatres nominated for Outstanding Season, which includes three professional, incredibly well-funded Tier 1 theatres: The Denver Center Theatre Company, The Arvada Center and Colorado Springs Theatre Works.

Many of you attended the Henry Awards, and others have watched my acceptance for Outstanding Season, and even though many of the things I said I have said to all of you many times, I’d like to share my comments with you again, because I believe they capture the essence of who and what OpenStage Theatre is.

In 1973, when my much loved and incredibly talented husband Bruce Freestone had the hair-brained idea to establish a grassroots theatre company in Northern Colorado, we dedicated ourselves to two primary precepts: to capture the Hearts and Minds of Northern Colorado Audiences, and, as embraced by our name, OpenStage Theatre & Company, to be open to ideas, genres, and the future.

This award belongs to our Company of Artists, who are the Soul of OpenStage Theatre, and its greatest resource. OpenStage makes no distinction between directors, designers, actors, and technicians – they are all Theatre Artists passionate about creating magical and transforming experiences, and each is a valued member of the OpenStage Ensemble Family of Artists.

If our Artists are our Soul, the Audience is our Heart. They are the Lifeblood of our Art. Theatre exists only in that singular moment created by Artists and Audience. This communion – this sharing in the power of theatrical story – nurtures compassion and understanding, and ultimately, creates a community where differences are embraced and conflicts are resolved with civility and tolerance.

My admiration and gratitude goes out to OpenStage Theatre’s Artists and to all of you who are Theatre Artists, who craft the vibrant and crazy experiences of Live Theatre. Your passion, talent and perseverance are an inspiration.

These awards come with their own unique challenge – to not let them dominate our work as artists, to not strive to win the awards again next year. If we focus our work on awards, then we rob our work of its essence. To do outstanding work, to do the best we are capable of, we need to focus on the work itself, on being authentic, and on sharing the truth of the work with our audience. So let’s all embrace these awards, give them a big hug, and then release them to the heavens so we can be free to meet the real challenges and the real purpose of what it means to create live theatre.

Which is to face our demons. As artists, we are our own raw material. The creative impulses within all of us are in constant battle with that inner voice that tells us we’re not good enough, that engulfs us with anger and frustration. But, once more time unto the breach, dear friends, once more. We need to embrace these passionate and unreasonable feelings as part of our process, part of our raw material. Our demons are what give us fire, give us energy, give us truth. We’re not fully connected and able to do authentic work until we have gone through our process and wrestled with our demons.

OpenStage Theatre constantly strives to create an environment where Artists are valued and where they feel nurtured so that they can take the risks that are at the core of our Art. When we fall short – when there is conflict – we need to work diligently – both as an organization and as individuals – to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, forgive ourselves and anyone involved in the conflict, and seek resolve. This is easier said than done. We can’t do our work in an emotional straight jacket and through rigid rules of conduct. We need the freedom of being who we truly are and to allow others to be fully human as well.

Some of us face conflict by withdrawing and quietly weathering the storm. Others of us run headlong into the gale. But whatever your personal style, we need, each of us, to remember that the person we’re in conflict with isn’t just a prop in our personal story. They are complete, vital, glorious humans who are fully embraced and valued by the universe, just as we are. We owe that person the respect of speaking with them directly, with as much gentleness, honesty and respect as we can garner. If we speak to each other as equals when we have conflict, if we wrestle with the storm and with each other, our personal stories become richer, our minds become broader, and the depth of our artistic endeavors becomes deeper.

So thank you, each of you, for being so gloriously, vibrantly human. Thank you for your dedication, for your perseverance, for your talent, and for your love of OpenStage and each other. I celebrate each of you, I celebrate our past, and I rejoice in our future. Onward!