Art News

Grim Mountain Legends Uncovers Stories From Colorado's Past

Grim Mountain Legends Uncovers Stories From Colorado's Past
Tessa Machmer
Multimedia collaborative LuneAseas invites audience members to dive into the mythical realm of Colorado’s past with its Grim Mountain Legends treasure hunt. The series uncovers stories from the turn of the twentieth century and has them unfold through clues in historic buildings, giving the audience time to make connections between history and present.

The four-part series’ next showing, following its recent Fort Collins performance, will be at the Mercury Cafe on Friday, June 24, and Saturday, June 25, as part of the Denver Fringe Festival. Later performances will be July 1-2 at the Bug Theatre, and July 8-9 at the Tabor Opera House in Leadville.

LuneAseas first envisioned Grim Mountain Legends in August 2021 as a show set around a campfire, a place where shadows already lurk and where the collective’s shadow puppetry, theater and dance easily enhance the drama of old tales. But after the initial series was done on Lemmon Staggs Homestead in Fort Collins, the members wanted to continue to fine-tune the stories they’d worked so hard to research and translate into performance.

The group sought out venues in historical buildings and planned its shows around the concept of treasure hunting. “We wanted to reactivate historic buildings, and also give not just the buildings, but venues that had been shut down from the pandemic new life,” says Leah Casper, executive director of LuneAseas.

“Whenever I go into old places, I want to see what’s back there behind the scenes. [The treasure hunt] is a really good way to introduce some of these old places to the public along with showing them stories and legends that we’ve collected from Colorado history,” Casper adds.
click to enlarge TESSA MACHMER
Tessa Machmer
Grim Mountain Legends currently showcases six different tales, and will add a seventh to performances at the Bug and the Tabor. They range from a story about an eccentric miner who claimed to have mined a magical mist that released strange creatures to a man who was acquitted of murder because of “cabin fever.”

All of the legends are based on historic stories that often blend fact and fiction. Working with myth allows both creative leeway and the chance to share some lesser-known stories from Colorado’s past. “It’s more interesting to an audience and to us to research people who were defiled and mystified and find the reality behind those stories,” explains Casper.

A lot of research goes into the production, and that’s part of the fun, she adds. “If I’m not learning, then I’m not building anything new for my audience," says Casper. "You have to constantly be learning to add value to what you do.”

Grim Mountain Legends also sends the audience on a treasure hunt to decode letters that give clues to the name of one historical Colorado figure. Depending on the venue, the audience might be guided to treasure sites in the building or asked to sit during the performance and stumble upon the treasures by surprise.

Because of the Mercury Cafe's limited size, Casper anticipates inviting the audience to remain seated through most of the show, but details are subject to change. Even without a specific tour, the point of staging Grim Mountain Legends in a historic building is to remind the audience to think about the layers of history that occurred there, Casper notes.

The Tabor Opera House performance will showcase the entire venue. LuneAseas plans to work with the natural acoustics of the building and share different floors of the building through video or guided tours. “If you ever wanted to see the Tabor, this is the way, with movement and performance,” Casper says.

Grim Mountain Legends, 8:30 p.m. June 24-25, Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street; 7 p.m. July 1-2, Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street; 7 p.m. July 8-9, Tabor Opera House, 308 Harrison Avenue, Leadville.
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Claire Duncombe is a Denver-based freelance writer who covers the environment, agriculture, food, music, the arts and other subjects.
Contact: Claire Duncombe