By Carole Howard
Thingamajig Theatre Company
Dennis Elkins, one of Thingamajig Theatre Company’s most admired artists, will return to Pagosa Springs to perform on July 7 and Friday July 9 at 7 p.m. in the first two plays of the autobiographical trilogy he wrote, produced and performed as a one-man show.
The two shows are a special highlight engagement in the theater forthcoming 2021 summer season after a 15-month closure because of COVID restrictions.
The first Elkins play is “box.,” originally performed in Pagosa to standing ovations and rave reviews by audiences at Thingamajig’s Playwrights Festival in 2018. Among the reactions: “Brilliant.” “Deeply incisive.” “Alternating very funny and hugely sad.” “A special treat to see such first-class acting in our little mountain town.”
It focuses on the psychological trials in our lives associated with packing and unpacking boxes — literally and figuratively. We follow Elkins through major events in his adult life, including his mother’s death, his son’s overdose, coming out of the closet and leaving academia at Fort Lewis College. It is an intensely moving and intimate portrayal, even comedic at times.
After intermission, the audience will be treated to “bag—,” the second installment of Elkins’ personal trilogy. Pronounced “bag dash,” the play had readings in Ireland, workshops in various American cities and a virtual debut at the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2020 under COVID conditions. This will be its second in-person U.S. production after its debut at the Denver Fringe a week before it comes to Pagosa.
“bag—” is based on Elkins’ trip to India in the winter of 2017 as he approached his 60th birthday. In this poignant comedy of travel and identity, Elkins crisscrosses India via buses, tuk-tuks and taxis in hopes of uncovering the mysteries of life and middle-age, bringing along a three-item to-do list: Seek guidance and wisdom from some appropriate spirit, scatter some of his son’s ashes in some appropriate place and see the Taj Mahal — not necessarily in that order.
The story showcases Elkins’ writing and acting skills as well as his naïve world view as he attempts to find his future through a culture so different from his own. His insightful storytelling offers wonderment and humor balanced against cynicism and fear of being the “other” — while sharing tips for travelers that will reshape your own expectations for the changing world around us.
Tickets for the two Elkins evenings are $35 each, available at pagosacenter.org or by phoning (970) 731-SHOW (7469).
‘Sylvia’ returns with a dog photo contest
The crown jewel of the summer season is the return of “Sylvia,” the touching canine comedy about a dog and her new owner, a middle-aged man who brings her home to live in his apartment in New York City, much to his wife’s distress.
Back by popular demand, “Sylvia” was the highlight of Thingamajig’s first season back in 2011, when Laura Moore played the part of “Sylvia” to huge acclaim. Now she will reprise the role from June 25 through Aug. 29 in honor of the theater’s 10th anniversary. Tim Moore, the theater producing artistic director, will direct the production.
In advance of the “Sylvia” opening, the Moores are holding a photo contest to find the perfect canine that best represents the character of the show’s star dog.
“We’re looking for a photo that’s cute, hilarious, sassy or heart-melting, one that pulls on the heart strings,” said Laura Moore. “Send us a picture of your beloved pooch and you’ll have a chance to win two free tickets to see ‘Sylvia.’ As well, the winning photo will be featured on the set of the play.”
The winner of the dog photo contest will be chosen by the cast of “Sylvia.” Photos must be high resolution so they are suitable to be printed, meaning your smartphone should be set for the largest file size available. Email your entry to email@example.com.
“We have produced hundreds of shows for thousands of patrons over the past decade,” said Tim Moore. “It is ‘Sylvia’ that is brought up more often than any other show with the request that we stage an encore run.”
A multiple Drama Desk Award-nominated comedy, A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia” has been produced thousands of times on Broadway and in regional theaters.
“And for good reason,” said Laura Moore. “It’s comedy gold with a canine touch. I am thrilled to be playing Sylvia again for our Pagosa audiences.”
You can find the dates and times of “Sylvia” and order tickets for the show on the theater website at pagosacenter.org or by phoning (970) 731-SHOW (7469). Tickets are $35.
Two fundraising galas
Thingamajig’s annual fundraising galas have become must-attend events on our community’s festive summer social calendar because of exciting live performances and auctions for unique follow-up private events with the actors. This year’s gala concerts will be even more special because there are two of them and they will bring back some of the most popular cast members who have performed at Thingamajig over the past decade.
The theme of the first gala concert on July 31 is “The last 10 years,” when the audience will be treated to the best numbers from previous Thingamajig musicals. The theme of the second on Aug. 5 is “The next 10 years,” which will feature musical performances from some great Broadway shows the Moores hope to produce in the future — “sort of our wish list or our bucket list,” as Tim Moore put it.
Past season ticket holders were given the first opportunity to purchase gala tickets, and only a very limited number still are available as part of the season ticket package. To purchase that package, which also includes a ticket to “Sylvia” and other benefits, please phone (970) 731-SHOW (7469). They are not available on the theater website.
in Black Box
All of the summer events will take place in the theater Black Box under whatever COVID health guidelines are in effect at the time. The Moores will remain flexible and nimble regarding various seating configurations and other requirements, given the ever-changing COVID environment. The actors will not be wearing masks, but they all will be vaccinated.
Thingamajig is celebrating its 10th anniversary with this summer season.
“We can’t imagine a better way to commemorate this milestone than being able to reopen the theater with inspiring productions and fun events after the long COVID closure,” said Tim Moore.
Restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic required Thingamajig — like theaters around the world — to go dark on March 15, 2020, resulting in a 15-month closure.
Thingamajig Theatre Company is an award-winning professional nonprofit 501(c)(3) theater in residence within the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. Its talented actors, directors and designers come from across the U.S. and around the world to produce musicals, comedies and dramas year-round — COVID permitting, of course.