If you ever attended the Colorado Theatre Guild’s annual Henry awards, you might have noticed the woman sitting quietly in the audience amid all the jubilation, tension, excitement and flying air kisses. This would have been Gloria Shanstrom, who over the years has organized and supervised this major event: dealing with the complex logistics of voting — logistics that changed drastically over the years as she worked to create more statewide involvement — as well as making sure there were enough judges at every eligible performance, overseeing the compilation of ballot numbers, ensuring that the setup for the evening included poised presenters and talented performers, rejoicing with winners on the big night and soothing the bruised egos of those who didn’t win.
After twenty years with the guild as a member, boardmember and — for the last eleven years — general manager, Shanstrom is resigning as of July 31. According to executive director Deb Flomberg, the guild is in the final stages of solidifying the job description; meanwhile, the workload will be handled internally by the board of directors.
Shanstrom admits to mixed feelings about leaving but “feels that it’s time.” She also runs Full Court Press, a media-relations company serving many of Denver’s smaller theaters. In addition, the responsibilities of caring for her mother, who came to live with her four years ago and just turned 92, continue to increase. “I needed to gain some time back,” Shanstrom says.
In addition to the Henrys, Shanstrom points to the guild’s other achievements. “Although I didn’t come up with the idea of Theatre Night Out, I loved being part of that process, administering it, going to the theater that night,” she says. There was also encouragement for local playwrights, and “I loved putting together forums and workshops and our big annual meetings.” Many of these smaller programs fell by the wayside as the size and scope of the Henrys increased.
“I am always surprised and proud and excited to see how many people move to Colorado based on the amount of theater that has come to be in this state,” Shanstrom says. “I’ve gotten phone calls from people thinking of moving here and wanting information or calling to say that the guild website was a determining factor in their decision-making.”
Although she’d always been a theater buff, Shanstrom’s passion for local theater really ignited when she saw her first small theater production, A ... My Name is Alice, presented during the now-defunct Theatre on Broadway’s 1990-1991 season. “It took my breath away. The company was in their very first theater, and it seated maybe thirty to forty people. There were folding chairs. I sat in the front row, and everybody in that show was right there in my face. They used a little remote-control car or truck, and it accidentally hit my foot. And for me it’s like: This, this right here is what theater is about. It’s not sitting in the 27th row of a 3,000-seat house. It’s sitting four feet away and having a remote-control vehicle hit your foot.”
Despite leaving her official position at the guild, Shanstrom’s enthusiasm for local theater continues undiminished. She’ll continue running Full Court Press, and is looking for new ways to remain involved. “I know there is still a lot of need for something within the theater community, and I’m not sure what exactly that is — but I’m hoping I can find a niche or some way to continue to benefit the community. I’d like to move away from being so much an administrator to becoming more of a participant again. It’s the participation part that I’ve really started missing.”
She laughs. “What the hell — I might throw myself on a running crew. That could be fun. I just want some time to explore.”
According to Flomberg, Shanstrom “has been a driving force behind spreading the word about local theater, no matter how large or how small, from day one, and I’m sure she’ll continue to be a strong advocate within the community. In her time at the CTG, Gloria’s work on the Henry Awards as well as maintaining our website and providing outreach to all theater companies within Colorado has been huge, and we have very big shoes to fill, indeed. Personally, I know she has taught me a great deal over the fifteen years I’ve known her, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her help. I wish her a wonderful retirement, but I’m sure we’ll see her at the theater.”