Skip to content

Local tiny home company builds mini stage

Set will bring free theater across Colorado communities

During the COVID-19 shutdown, the Butterfly Effect Theatre of Colorado had a lot of time to reflect on the communities it served.

The question the theater company and many other arts organizations have been wrestling with for a long time is how to reach different audiences and communities who might not normally see their shows, explained Stephen Weitz, producing artistic director for Butterfly Effect Theatre of Colorado, or BETC.

“It just occurred to us that maybe we were sort of asking the question in the wrong direction,” he said. “Maybe the actual question was, how do we get our art in front of people where they already are, where they already live, in the communities where they’re already spending their time?”

That’s why this year the theater company collaborated with THD Productions and SimBLISSity Tiny Homes, based near Lyons. SimBLISSity builds energy-efficient tiny homes on wheels, and also constructed the 35-foot gooseneck trailer that will be the stage for two BETC productions this summer.

Last summer, the BETC launched its own tiny mobile stage to bring free outdoor theatre in a pilot tour. The positive response was immediate, even with the limitations of the small moving-truck-sized stage.

The mobile venue created by SimBLISSity Tiny Homes and THD Productions for this summer’s production weighs nearly 16,000 pounds with a stage opening of roughly 18 by 14 feet, Weitz said. This allows for wing space so actors can exit the stage, do costume changes and grab props out of sight of the audience.

The tiny mobile stage is fully wired so it can connect to the sound system and lighting. The tech is integrated into the vehicle and has a full battery system, meaning that as long as it’s charged the performance can actually take place offline.

Weitz said performing in such a setting does make for a different experience, both for the performers and audience, where many more elements — weather, traffic, etc. — take away a lot of the control one finds in a traditional theater setting.

“I think the thing that it really requires is a commitment to that sense of play and that sense of experimentation,” he said. “That sense of our sort of theatrical roots. If you look back to how theater was produced for a long time in a lot of places, it had those kinds of variables involved in it.”

With that openness, he hopes audiences will enjoy such a unique experience.

“I think as long as the performers and the audience come with that set of expectations of, ‘This is not your traditional indoor protected controlled theater experience,’ then it actually adds a little spice, magic to the whole experience,” Weitz said.

The point of producing shows on the tiny stage and bringing them to audiences is to remove the barriers that may have stopped people from experiencing theater. That’s also why all these performances are free.

“There’s a lot of people who, for a lot of different reasons, the traditional arts experience can feel daunting or can feel unwelcominging,”  Weitz said. “One of the things that we insist on at all of our performances is that they’re free of charge to the audience, so it may be cost barriers. There’s a lot of reasons that people don’t participate in the arts that go beyond (that) they don’t want to.”

The Butterfly Effect Theatre Company will be debuting “Amelia’s Big Idea” on the tiny stage, a show by Heather Beasley, Richie Cannaday and Edie Carey and also the first musical and production for young audiences from BETC. They will also be showing E.M. Lesis’ new play, “Dorothy’s Dictionary.”

Weitz said they’ll be performing four times as many shows this summer compared to last with 35 on the books so far, from Colorado Springs to Longmont and beyond. The theater company works with local partners to help build audiences, so many of the shows will be public at places like recreation centers and breweries across the metro area.

A few private performances will take place for summer camps and senior facilities as well. The company is also visiting the Salida/Buena Vista area this summer for their first overnight trial with the tiny stage.