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Ghost-Writer adds a show -- and adds to Boulder's theater scene

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The Boulder theater scene has sprung to life lately, after several years when pretty much the only choice locals had were the -- admittedly excellent but generally traditional -- offerings of Boulder's Dinner Theatre. Anyone wanting new or boundary-breaking works had to travel to Denver. But now new or newish groups like The Catamounts, square product theatre, LOCAL Theater Company and Band of Toughs are sprouting up like mushrooms -- and the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company is the daddy of the trend.

It has been around for seven years, growing steadily in artistry and stature over that time. And demand for BETC's latest offering, Michael Hollinger's Ghost-Writer, has been so high, the reviews so glowing (see our review of Ghost-Writer here) and the houses so packed that artistic director Stephen Weitz has added an extra performance this Saturday, February 16, at 4 p.m. The show closes after the Saturday evening performance.

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Ghost-Writer is a profound and quiet piece about the relationship between a famous novelist and the secretary so dedicated to his legacy that she continues to type his unfinished novel after his death, under the impression that he is still dictating to her. The BETC production, directed by Josh Hartwell, stars Laura Norman, with strong supporting performances by Jim Hunt and Anne Sandoe.

The script, says Weitz, "is very much the kind of play I try and find and distill down to its essence: a great story with great characters and written in a way that you can bring alive to the audience ... Josh did a great job," he adds. "Given a too-strong directorial hand, the play could easily get crushed. He showed a lot of wise subtlety and restraint."

The company, currently in the process of selecting the next season, has grown almost every year since its founding, despite the dismal economic climate that has so many arts companies in the metro area struggling. "This year over last, our subscriptions grew by 40 percent," Weitz says. "The year before that, they doubled. The Santaland Diaries sold 400 more tickets this year than last. We're seeing more and more people who are committing to the whole season.

"We hope that's going to continue, but you have to grow responsibly. A lot of companies try to move too fast at that three to five year point. We've been taking baby steps."

Three years ago, BETC began offering Equity contracts, and this, plus the company's growing reputation, means that now some of the best and most established actors in the area are auditioning for their productions. "It makes me really happy that our peers and colleagues are saying, 'When can I get a part?'" Weitz says. "It gives us a bigger pool to pull from, and some of the best quality work around.

"I know people may leave any one of our shows and go, 'That wasn't quite for me,' he concludes. "But I hope they never leave saying, 'That wasn't well done.'"

Ghost-Writer is about as well-done as it gets.

Ghost-Writer runs through February 17 at Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder. To see if any tickets are still available, call 888-512-7469 or go to www.boulderensembletheatre.org.

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