December 26, 2003

Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s new owners hire N.Y.-stage veteran as artistic director

BOULDER — Twenty-three years ago Michael Duran played the part of Joseph in Boulder’s Dinner Theatre production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” In March he’ll be directing and choreographing the same show, on the same stage.

Duran took on the role of artistic director in September — as the theater began going through a changing of the guard. After 26 years of running the show, Ross Haley, original owner, has handed the keys over to Gene and Judy Bolles. Haley declined to reveal the sale price.

“Dr. Bolles called about eight months ago saying Ross was selling the theater and asked me to come take over the artistic side of the job,” Duran said. “He and his wife, Judy, are going to do the business side.”

At the time, Duran was in New York where he’d been acting on Broadway and in television for 23 years.

The new owners are in Germany until January. Gene Bolles is chief of neurosurgery at Landstuhl Medical Center, the largest hospital outside of the United States for troops stationed in Europe and the Middle East. His work was recently in the news after he performed surgery on Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch following her rescue as a prisoner of war in Iraq.

“Gene was an original investor in the theater and has been a huge supporter, coming to every show,” Duran said. “I think he wanted it for sentimental reasons. How involved he and Judy will be I don’t know. I’m just learning all I can.”

Aside from the change in ownership and dividing former owner and artistic director Haley’s responsibilities into two jobs, the dinner theater will operate in the same fashion it always had. “It’s been working well for the last 26 years — there’s no reason to change anything,” Duran said.

The current group of actors has been around for about 15 years. “People come and go, and sometimes they take shows off. We know the talent and know how to use them,” Duran explained. “They can make a living in Colorado, where they’re buying houses and putting their kids through school. It’s rare in Colorado for actors to make a living, but they do here.”

It’s the theater’s setup that allows the actors to be able to afford to do what they love. All of them are food servers as well as actors — combined roles that wouldn’t be allowed if they belonged to the Actors Equity Union.

“We’re nonunion, and that means our actors can wait tables and make a whole lot more money,” he added. “I believe in the union, but if we went union here a lot of these people couldn’t afford to do what they do and pay their mortgages.”

Duran belongs to the Actors Equity Union, receiving benefits like a pension and retirement. Because of his affiliation, he can’t perform at the Boulder’s Dinner Theatre, but he can direct and choreograph performances.

Like numerous businesses, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre has struggled financially through the past few years. “Theater in general has taken a hit following 9-11,” Duran said. I was doing ‘Music Man’ in New York at the time, and we closed in December of that year.”

Duran believes a change in the playbill allowed the theater to keep its doors open. “Ross changed his schedule to bring in the classics rather than taking in new things,” Duran said.

Haley credits the shift to family entertainment and creative marketing — such as a three-tiered pricing structure — as tactics that helped the theater make it through the dark times.

“I thought we needed to get to a more family focus, a more traditional schedule following 9-11,” (Ross) Haley explained. “When things are down it’s a good time to get people out. We even stayed open when we normally would have closed because of such a small house.

“We’re not quite back to where we were before economically, but we’re breaking even, and that’s good,” Haley said. “We’ve been almost full since about six weeks after 9-11.

“I set my goals to keeping the doors open and to keeping 95 people employed. A lot of people haven’t been able to do that.”

BOULDER — Twenty-three years ago Michael Duran played the part of Joseph in Boulder’s Dinner Theatre production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” In March he’ll be directing and choreographing the same show, on the same stage.

Duran took on the role of artistic director in September — as the theater began going through a changing of the guard. After 26 years of running the show, Ross Haley, original owner, has handed the keys over to Gene and Judy Bolles. Haley declined to reveal the sale price.

“Dr. Bolles called about eight months ago saying Ross was selling the theater…

Related Content