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Revamped Pueblo company opens with an ageless Neil Simon work



Most theater troupes employ a steady cadre of actors who play various roles from production to production. For now, Andrea Garrett and Jason Laughrey rely on themselves, interested Colorado State University-Pueblo students and community players.

"We audition for every show, so if you're interested, please give us a call," Garrett says, laughing.

Garrett and Laughrey took over management of the ailing Steel City Theatre Company in Pueblo last January, when the original founders moved on after eight years. Both co-producing artistic directors have solid theater backgrounds: Laughrey has a degree in theater arts, and Garrett, since quitting college, has spent several years doing regional and community theater.

"Jason's degree qualifies him to direct and produce plays, while my experience enables me to be a good theater manager," Garrett says. "We're both very hands-on directors and like to collaborate with the actors as much as possible."

Garrett and Laughrey have kept the company's nonprofit status and venue (CSU-Pueblo's Hoag Hall), but say they've changed the approach for the 2008-9 season.

"We produce shows that no one else in the area does," says Garrett.

They begin this season with one of Neil Simon's lesser-known plays, The Star Spangled Girl, billed as "a love triangle, mixed with politics ... that includes fights between best friends, canned goods and ... more than a few eyelashes falling out." Garrett and Laughrey star along with 19-year-old Andrew Ritterling, a CSU student who's been with Steel City since high school.

Garrett touts Girl as a precursor to Simon's Odd Couple, adding that Girl's characters belong to the same brand of quirky, funny and insane.

"It's an entertaining show that's laugh-out-loud ridiculous and fun," she says.

Girl played 261 times on Broadway in 1966, though it wasn't well-received, and Simon never thought it was as good as his other, more famous comedies, such as Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple both of which still run on Broadway today. But Garrett thinks a 2008 audience will receive Girl better, given the present political climate and relaxed social mores.

Upcoming Steel City shows include Personals in October (penned by two of the three Friends creators, David Crane and Marta Kauffman, as well as playwright Seth Friedman), and Jean Shepard's well-loved tale of Ralphie Parker and his BB gun, A Christmas Story.

Warding off those who'll jump to conclude that the new Steel City is destined to stay safely in the mainstream, Garrett argues, "We have done experimental theater and dark theater, but this year we wanted to showcase something for everyone."

She points out that February's Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune is so black as to be nearly X-rated. Plus, she asks, what's so wrong with putting on a show every once in a while that makes people fall out of their chairs laughing?

Steel City Theatre Company presents Neil Simon's The Star Spangled Girl
CSU-Pueblo Hoag Hall,
2200 Bonforte Blvd., Pueblo
Aug. 21-23 and 28-30, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10-$15, all ages; call 719/289-0293 or visit

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