A scant four months ago, in October of 2020, we, the authors of this guest column, presented to you that the Atlas Theater represents dreamers, memories and doers of the community of Cheyenne. We unveiled an initiative to expand the Atlas footprint to the west. Our community challenge was to purchase the adjacent property if we could raise the funds by Dec. 15.

The drama and suspense are over. WE DID IT! While the world seems turned upside down because of COVID, the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players, with donations from the Friends of the Atlas (FOTA), purchased the property adjacent to the Atlas in January. This is a vote of optimism for the future of community theatre in downtown Cheyenne.

What about the lighting store now in that space? For the foreseeable future, DECORoom, will remain in business and be CLTP’s thriving tenant.

As with theatrical productions, FOTA writes a script and then performs. Over the last four years, that script and performance included: Restoring the Atlas original windows, restoring the Atlas 1887 façade; restoring the 1908 original fire curtain; establishing an Atlas endowment to sustain preservation funding in perpetuity; conducting community input sessions on the future of the Atlas and now expanding the Atlas’ potential footprint to the west.

Saving a historic structure is a complex endeavor. Ensuring that building safety and security codes are met while preserving the elements that make a building remarkable is not a task for the timid. Restoring, preserving and sustaining investments are not free. The heroes of the Friends of the Atlas and the Cheyenne community played a critical part by contributing $940,000 over the last four years for the many tasks required to save the Atlas. The latest success is the purchase of the adjacent property.

We are excited about what we have accomplished with focused advocacy. We remain optimistic about the wisdom of continuing to invest in restoring, preserving and sustaining this historic downtown Cheyenne treasure and icon of Wyoming.

What comes next in this optimistic script?

• Conducting further community sessions and planning on how best to use the expanded footprint, and the presently dilapidated second and third floors of the Atlas.

• Planning to add supports in the Atlas lobby to stabilize the second and third floors.

• Planning to improve theatre patron and performer amenities.

• Continued fundraising for planning, designing and construction.

• Continued fundraising to grow the endowment.

Cheyenne Little Theatre Players is a nonprofit that has embraced the task of being responsible for preserving the Historic Atlas Theater. It relies upon strong community support to make that possible. CLTP does this while pursuing its primary mission: to celebrate creativity and community enrichment through theatre. As a community theatre, it provides live, quality performances year-round. These productions rely on a cast of volunteers: incredibly talented actors, directors, stage crew members, costume creators, makeup appliers, front-of-house managers and others.

During these challenging COVID times, one of CLTP’s core values is forefront: “To be safe in all ways.” Carefully following Laramie County health guidelines, CLTP was able to successfully bring back live theatre with 18 socially distanced, masked performances of the 64th Old-Fashioned Melodrama at the Historic Atlas Theater this past summer. CLTP has shown its ability to adapt and carry out its mission.

Cultural events and creative expressions, as they are shared, are a key fiber of a rich community life and the tapestry woven expressing the values of its people. Now, as our lives have been put into a “2020” focus, and changes in our shared community cultural life disrupted, it is time for us to examine how many of the arts will return to their old form and how much are we (as individuals or a community) willing to support and advocate for arts in the future.

The Cheyenne Little Theatre Players have contributed community theatre to Cheyenne since 1930. There are two reasons why CLTP is a successful nonprofit providing year-round entertainment: It has volunteers who share their time and talent, and it has the enduring support of the community of Cheyenne.

We have heard people say Cheyenne is a great place because we are so close to Fort Collins or Denver. Well, no. We say Cheyenne is a great place for what we can find here, like the Historic Atlas Theater, CLTP’s community theatre productions, and the fine, community-oriented people of Cheyenne.

Alane West and Wayne Hansen are co-founders of Friends of the Atlas, an ad hoc committee of the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players. For more information, and to get updates on the future input sessions, contact West at 307-331-9602 or email atlas@cheyennelittletheatre.org.

comments powered by Disqus