Not long ago, Rod Barker had two things going – one, an idea for a play and two, a theater as much his as anyone’s in which to stage said play. Here’s what the president and CEO of the Strater Hotel didn’t have: Someone to write the play, a director, a cast, a set and, perhaps most importantly, much time.
A short six months later on June 19, “Guitar Strings, a Cowboy and a Lost Peacock,” the original play produced by Barker, written by Sarah Syverson and directed by Scott Levy, opened at the Henry Strater Theatre and will run Tuesday through Sunday until Sept. 26.
The production is part drama, part comedy, part musical, part cultural analysis, part Durango history lesson. There’s one thing it is not – the popular and beloved melodrama that had a 50-plus year run. (In fact, during one scene that repurposed the elaborate and iconic melodrama backdrop, “Guitar Strings” humorously points out to its audience that this, indeed, is not the melodrama.)
The play follows Will Partin (Jason Lythgoe), a singin’ and poetry-writin’ cowhand from 1915, and Becca Carter (Caitlin Cannon), a sassy, millennial traveling singer/songwriter from 2015. Having checked into the Strater during their respective time periods, the two meet and become trapped in the hotel’s time machine of an elevator, informed by a genie (Geoff Johnson, who plays multiple roles) that the only way to free themselves is to find an elusive peacock. Songs, shenanigans, humor, time travel and some over-the-years Durango name-dropping ensue, examining how the speed of life, communication, technology and commerce has changed in 100 years.
The process wasn’t without challenges. The production went through two directors before being reprieved by Levy, who is the Executive Director of Performing Arts and Producing Artistic Director for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Syverson, who has written and performed a couple one-woman shows in the region and lives in Mancos, didn’t begin writing in earnest until January, ultimately seeing her script go through 18 drafts. And the cast wasn’t in place until April.
The Herald spoke with some of the play’s principals about getting “Guitar Strings” to curtain, how the production materialized so quickly, the process of collaboration and some of the difficulties experienced along the way.
Click on the links to the left to read those interviews.