Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts

For 51 years, Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts cast and crew members have been mounting local theatrical productions from character driven dramas to large scale musical productions to original plays by local playwrights. Equally remarkable is the theater itself: an 85-year-old, restored stone building built by local men as part of the Great Depression's WPA.

While in La Junta, take the time to check out the Picketwire Center. Years later, you'll still find yourself saying, "Remember that night when we went to Picketwire?"

For more than a half century, the Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts in La Junta has been known for its dynamic and entertaining theatrical productions. Named for the extraordinary canyon that runs through nearby Comanche National Grassland, the Picketwire Center is famous throughout the canyons and plains. In fact, it is a common practice for people to travel several hours just to spend a single evening in a unique, wonderfully restored and repurposed historic building while watching talented and diverse actors perform for the sheer joy of the craft.

The building that houses the Picketwire Center has its own story. Built in the 1930s as part of the WPA during Roosevelt's New Deal of the Great Depression, the stones were quarried from local sources. Men, unemployed and—for the most part—unskilled in the craft of masonry were then hired through the WPA to build a gymnasium for use by the young students who attended school nearby. Under the tutelage of a few experienced and skilled stone masons employed by the government to oversee construction, the workers soon became "masters" in their own right as a lovely, functional and much appreciated gymnasium took shape beneath their hands.

As always happens, populations shift, neighborhoods change and, after several decades, the gymnasium was no longer needed. The building was abandoned until a woman by the name of Mickie Miller-Knight relocated from Texas. Miller-Knight, who had a background in theater, took one look at the vacant building and instantly saw within its walls the realization of her lifelong dream: to have a theater solely dedicated to producing live community theater.

No sooner did she announce her intentions than much of the La Junta community declared their support, and in 1968, after a combination of fundraisers, grant applications and donations, the doors at Picketwire opened for the first performance. More than 50 years and hundreds of performances later, the theater is still going strong.

With an occasional exception, the Picketwire Players—the acting troupe in residence—are volunteers; however, their lack of "professional" status does not detract from their talent in any fashion whatsoever. In fact, it's their devotion—along with their skill and love of acting—that adds a certain dimension to each production. Likewise, the theater, itself, functions solely on the efforts, dedication and commitment of volunteers, which is perhaps the greatest testimony to just how much the people of La Junta and surrounding towns—and those lucky visitors who know to jump on a good thing when they see it—treasure this gem on the canyons and plains of southeastern Colorado.

So, should you find yourself in the area when there's a play running at the Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. It's an evening you won't soon forget.

Memorable Performances in a Historical Venue

The Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts has three productions slated for the remainder of 2019. Contact the theater for ticket prices and reservations.

Mama Mia!

Director: Tracey Salzbrenner
Production Dates: July 11, 12, 13 & 18, 19, 20
Curtain: 7:30 PM

ABBA's hits tell the hilarious story of a young woman's search for her birth father. This sunny and funny tale unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter's quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother's past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. The storytelling magic of ABBA's timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship, creating an unforgettable show.

The Crucible

Director: Heather Pidcock-Reed
Production Dates: October 17, 18, 19
Curtain: 7:30 PM

This classic, written by prize winning playwright Arthur Miller, focuses on a young farmer, his wife and a young servant-girl who maliciously causes the wife's arrest for witchcraft. The farmer brings the girl to court to admit the lie, and it is here that the monstrous course of bigotry and deceit is terrifyingly depicted. Instead of saving his wife, the farmer finds himself also accused of witchcraft and ultimately accused of witchcraft.

A Christmas Story

Director: Brenda Erwin
Production Dates: December 12, 13, 14
Curtain: 7:30 PM

Humorist Jean Shepherd's memoir of growing up in the Midwest in the 1940s follows 9 year old Ralphie Parker in his quest to get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun under the tree for Christmas. Ralphie pleads his case before his mother, his teacher and even Santa Claus, himself, at Higbee's Department Store. The consistent response: "You'll shoot your eye out!" All the elements from the beloved motion picture are here, including the family's temperamental exploding furnace; Scut Farkas, the school bully; the boys' experiment with a wet tongue on a cold lamppost; the Little Orphan Annie decoder pin; Ralphie's father winning a lamp shaped like a woman's leg in a net stocking; Ralphie's fantasy scenarios and more. A Christmas Story is destined to become a theatrical holiday perennial.

Throughout the year, The Picketwire Center for Performing and Visual Arts also puts on other shows, including free concerts and talent shows. For the most recent list of events, check the Picketwire Center's website or Facebook page.

Location

802 San Juan
La Junta, Colorado 81050

Phone

(719) 384-8320

Contact

picketwire@picketwireplayers.org

Website

picketwireplayers.org