How does one elevate a town that’s already at 6,200 feet?
Sure, a long overdue Yellowstone eruption might blast us into the skies at any given moment offering us a magnificent, apocalyptic panoramic view of our humble, flame-engulfed Rocky Mountain paradise…
But let’s talk elevation in terms of culture, rather than in altitude. How can local aspiring artists and creators inject our town of 10,000+ inhabitants (give or take a tourist or two), many of whom value outdoor activities over indoor affairs, with a renewed sense of artistic integrity? How do we encourage our community as a whole to place an art opening or a dance performance on the same stoke scale of a lush powder day?
Some might say it’s impossible. But that’s not to say it’s a worthless endeavor. Artists in the valley, those whose creative ideas surpass the valley’s arguably limited artistic opportunities, should never stop pushing to bring their unique talents to the fold. Snowboarding celebrities like Travis Rice aren’t the only locals in town capable of embodying determination, taking risks, and “pushing it” at every turn, so to speak. There’s plenty of us. I’ve worked alongside many of them, and there are hundreds more who are all willing to be part of something special that will make their Jackson Hole experience distinctive and memorable.
Regardless of who you are, locals all want to leave their impact on Jackson Hole in one way or another. It’s malleable and welcoming, a true double-black diamond in the ski town rough, devoid of (most) of the snobbishness of similar ski towns that will remain unnamed. With the abundance of development and transient workers, the town is rapidly changing; however, there’s still a heart that beats wildly in the core of our valley.
And I ain’t just talkin’ ‘bout that caldera…
I owe so much of my own creative success to the supportive members of Jackson Hole. Not only did they watch me flail around during improv shows with The Laff Staff for five years and applaud it, but they’ve also purchased tickets to my quirky, experimental one act plays (“It’s like a time travel story, with Icelandic trolls and a fisherman. And it incorporates modern dance.”).
Recently, however, our local community has made one of my creative dreams come true: On March 17th, 2017, I will be premiering my very own original musical at the Pink Garter Theatre. The two shows that led up to this endeavor and helped make it possible, “I Can Ski Forever” and “I 2 Can Ski Forever”, were sketch comedy shows about ski town living, which premiered in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Co-written with my friend, performer Josh Griffith, with additional material added by fellow actors in the shows, the shows were collaborative and offbeat and offered a much-needed satirical look into the idiosyncrasies of our community.
The shows went over so well with the community, that we even received coverage from national magazines heralding our praises. The repeated question came quickly after:
“When are you doing the next one?”
I recognized the opportunity before me immediately. I knew I had to make sure that this third “Ski Forever” production was going to blow the other two out of the water. But we’d already poked fun at so many topics and stereotypes—how would we make it fresh and interesting?
Well…obviously make it a full-length musical, right?
However, by taking on this scale of a production, I knew my budget would sky rocket. Renting venue space in Jackson can be exorbitantly expensive and challenging—that I knew. But this wasn’t just a sketch show anymore. This would be triple the size of the previous shows. I would have to pull together not only a composer, a musical director, and musicians, but also build set pieces, hire a video production team to film the show, get a choreographer and—oh yeah—write a brilliant, engaging, comprehendible script for a two-hour show.
No big deal.
Immediately, I went to our Jackson community for assistance, filming a promotional video with the help of around thirty locals and a burgeoning local media company, and launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the show. And sure enough, after 30 days of tribulations and second guessing, we managed to pull together our budget, and are now able to deliver a modern, original musical to the people of Jackson Hole.
By combining indoor theatre with the outdoor lifestyle that so many of us are addicted to, I feel so ready to tell a story that anyone who has lived in a ski town can identify with. It was my mission to truly say something in this play, to showcase not only my artistic point of view, but to also celebrate local talent, music, creativity, and above all, a supportive community. It all exists here.
In my wake, I can only encourage local artists to continue pushing the boundaries that are set forth for us. Going off-piste is not limited to the ski community at large, but should be a motto embodied by every local artist looking to deliver artistic pow-shots to ski towns like Jackson. Because, even at 6,200 feet, where the air and the opportunities are a little bit thinner, the sky remains the limit.
Andrew grew up in Jackson Hole and spent most of his childhood and adult life acting in various plays and musicals. He is the brains behind “I Can Ski Forever”, the upcoming original Jackson musical premiering at the Pink Garter Theatre on March 17th, as well as the playwright of the Riot Act one acts, “Tröllaskagi”, “Three-Step Rug”, “Those Days”, and “Second Guesses”. He is currently represented by the Bradford Literary Agency and is the author of the upcoming young adult novel, “Middleplain”. He spends much of his time in Iceland, for some reason.