The Strater knows how to put on a show. Since 1962, the iconic hotel in downtown Durango has been entertaining people – tourists and locals alike – with its summer performances.
This summer, there’s a new show at the Henry Strater Theatre: The Durango Western Music & Vaudeville Show, which will run every night except Monday, through the end of September.
And this year’s offering, directed by Scott Levy, is different, said Rod Barker, owner of the Strater and producer and co-writer of the show.
“Last year, we wrote a show that was sort of a Western kind of a show, it didn’t have any vaudeville in it,” he said. “This year, we have incorporated Western music, cowboy poetry and vaudeville throughout the entire thing. So while there’s singing, it breaks it into skits and different things. Instead of a play that has a start and a finish, it’s a bunch of fun things.”
Getting to do a bunch of fun things on stage every night is Ted Hockenbury, who’s playing “Durango Dave” (“the meanest man in Durango”) in the production. He also plays banjo and pedal steel guitar in the show. You may recognize Hockenbury from the bands Wild Country and the Jelly Belly Boogie Band. He also works for the Bayfield School District.
While he’s been playing music since he was young, acting is a new direction for Hockenbury.
“This is new. It’s fun, actually,” he said. “I don’t have to remember parts: My part is pretty easy – just mostly grunting and groaning and looking mean.”
The cast of five also includes Hallie Denman, Johanna Laverty, Ben Reece and Greg Ryder, who in the show sings, is a cowboy poet and emcee.
The show “mixes Western music with old vaudeville stuff,” he said. “It’s a real fun mix. It’s been a real challenge and hard work.”
Barker said locals will be able to appreciate the family-friendly show as well, “It’s got some much local stuff in it. It’s kind of like the Follies a little bit. It’s very relevant to Durango now and the old days and it brings in some of our culture.”
He also added that the money made on the shows during the summer help to allow various local festivals to use the theater space without charge. “That’s another reason the locals should come out, because they’re supporting the thing that helps keep this free for all of these other venues,” he said.
And it’s just a good time, he said.
“It’s fun, it’s light-hearted,” Barker said. “You leave with some fun thoughts in your head about different things, and you want to come back.”