After 23 years of owning and putting on shows at the Festival Playhouse, Charley and Donna Ault are closing the curtains and heading off to the next stage.
“This is something we started thinking about back in 2008 — we can’t keep doing what we’re doing now forever,” Charley said. “The maintenance of a 140-year-old building is really taxing.”
“I think it is a good idea, and I’m glad we’re at this point,” Donna added.
According to Charley, the building has been sold to new owners who like to restore old buildings, but he and Donna do not know what plans they have for the theater.
The Aults didn’t want to make a big deal of the closing, and so quietly told audiences during the last performances in December, and had a small get together with the actors closely tied to the theater.
“We wanted to be able to stop on a high note, and people seem glad for us,” Charley said.
The pair bought the building in 1990, a time that Charley and Donna describe as a low point for the Olde Town Arvada.
“There was a lot of old antique shops and dilapidated shops at the time,” Donna said.
“I like to think we helped to make a change in the area,” Charley said.
Charley’s father started the Denver Player’s Guild in 1936, and since then the group has performed to more than 250,000 people.
One of the things the Aults are most proud of is the opportunity they have given to around 2,000 people to start acting. There are people in Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York performing or working in the arts in some professional capacity, who started with them.
“We’ve been at it in the theater for most of our married lives, and we’re looking forward to taking a deep breath,” Charley said. “In 2013 we were open 40 out of the 52 weeks — we were there all the time.”
As to what they will do next, that is a bit up in the air.
The two have been working on a business called My Life, My Way, My Words — Raw, which allows clients to get their stories and histories on video.
“Everyone has a story, and we think it’s better that people are able to tell it their way,” Charley said. “It’s a peak into their world.”
Neither Charley or Donna have given up performing on stage, or participating in the theater world in some area, but what form that will take remains to be seen.
“We’re leaving things a lot better than we left them,” Charley said. “It’s time for new ideas to come and help the community.”