How CA said ‘Bye, old friend’

It stood for 43 years, providing a home for countless plays, musicals, meetings, concerts, assemblies, recitals, and Town Halls, but it did not take long for Colorado Academy’s Froelicher Theatre to come down to the ground.

On a hot August afternoon, a small group of faculty, staff, students, and even alumni, gathered to watch the demolition, including the faculty trio who have spent much of their lives in the theater.

“Bye, old friend,” said James Meehan, as he videotaped the first blows to the theater’s brick exterior. “Thanks for the memories.”

“This theater has had a great run,” said Steve Scherer, recording the moment on his phone. “Now we’re ready for Act Two.”

“We will miss the quirky intimacy of Froelicher Theatre,” added Maclain Looper, who was remembering two of his favorite performances there—Les Misérables and Euridice.

Violin instructor Becky Burchfield came to work at CA one year after Froelicher opened. “I am sad and happy,” she said, watching the heavy machinery take bites out of Froelicher’s facade. “I have a lot of memories of concerts there with both students and my own daughters.”

Cooper Kofron ’20 and Senior James Doolittle take one last bow as Froelicher Theatre comes down. (Photo by Cathy Nabbefeld)

One of the first to arrive at the demolition was an alumnus, Cooper Kofron ’20. “I am so attached to this place,” he said. “I will miss it so much.” He watched with Senior James Doolittle. “Because I have so many great memories in Froelicher, I  just had to watch it come down,” Doolittle said.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Director of Performing and Visual Arts Katy Hills. “We have many decades of fond memories of Froelicher building a community bonded in the arts. But I am ecstatic that this day has finally come.”

A little history

When the Middle School performers took their bow at the concluding performance of Pirates of Penzance in the final days of February 2020, they had no way of knowing that they would be the last actors to perform on the Froelicher stage. By mid-March, Colorado Academy had transitioned to remote learning and the Upper School musical, which had already begun rehearsals, was canceled. Pirates would be the alpha and omega—the first play to be performed in Froelicher Theatre in spring 1978 and the last play to be performed there in spring 2020.

The building served the CA community faithfully for many years. But with the lack of a functional HVAC system, multiple roof leaks, and inadequate accessibility, Froelicher Theatre had reached the end of its lifespan and had become an obstacle to learning and an impediment to CA’s top-notch performances.

Rendering of the new Leach Center for the Performing Arts

Froelicher was scheduled for demolition in May 2020, but the pandemic forced CA to hit pause and reevaluate plans for the timing of construction and related expenses. During the summer, CA rebid the project to reduce overall costs. Generous donors have made gifts to support the new Leach Center for the Performing Arts, the fourth and final building in CA’s See it Through capital campaign. Already completed are the remodel of the Welborn House, construction of the new Ponzio Arts Center, and construction of the Field House and Athletic Center.

After the demolition of Froelicher Theatre, construction of the Leach Center for the Performing Arts will begin. Scheduled to open in fall 2021, it will include two performance spaces, a place to design and build sets, room to rehearse, instructional classroom space, a theatrical rigging system, up-to-date lighting and sound, updated heating and air conditioning, and seating for 500 people. CA continues to seek philanthropic support to raise the $5 million needed to complete fundraising goals and add the Leach Center—which will be one of the most public spaces at CA—to the roster of beautiful, functional buildings on campus.

From Left: Steve Scherer, Angel Vigil, Billy Bair, Maclain Looper, James Meehan

‘A Froelicher Fable’

Some of the denizens of Froelicher came to say their farewells earlier in the summer. Former Chairman of Fine and Performing Arts Angel Vigil and Master Theater teacher and Technical Director Billy Bair, both now retired, visited the building during the summer for one last time. Inspired, Bair left us with “A Froelicher Fable,” excerpted below to sum up many, many years of blood, sweat, and tears (and washroom issues) in Froelicher Theatre.

So Angel and Billy decided to quit.
Like Thelma and Louise off a cliff
They left Steve in a tiff.
But replacements were super!
A Limey and a Looper!
And a new triumvirate ruled
So the students could still be schooled.
And a Katy took over the Chair
To run the department with care.
Now the building is tired and in woe
And finally will be able to go.
A new improved place comes anon
Where actors can flush the John.
So good luck in the new
nd good luck to you too.
Old Froelicher is where we all grew.

-Billy Bair
2020 (the year of the Great Pandemic)