PHOTO BY KATE FORGACH. Clockwise from top left: Denise Burson Freestone, Bruce Freestone, Brian Hughes, Sydney Parks Smith

By Kate Forgach

White roses tumbled out of a full vase on the day everything changed at OpenStage Theatre and Company. The luscious blooms were a gift from the Theatre’s co-founder to her successor, a change long in the making. 

Cofounders Bruce and Denise Freestone in the early days of OpenStage Theatre and Company.

August 1 was the official date OpenStage Co-founder and Producing Artistic Director Denise Bryson Freestone stepped back into a consulting position and Sydney Parks Smith took over the artistic reigns. Smith has served as the company’s Associate Artistic Director for five years, while Burson Freestone provided her with training equal to undergraduate and graduate degrees necessary to be Artistic Director. 

Smith is joined by Brian Hughes, former executive director of community radio KRFC and OpenStage Managing Director since late last year. Hughes lived in Los Angeles while working in the film and television industries, before visiting Fort Collins and deciding it was his new home. He soon became involved in non-profit management. 

Co-founder and Producer Bruce Freestone also will continue in a consultant position. No doubt Bruce  will continue to spend a fair amount of time constructing sets and organizing all things on the technical side.

The massive change for the theatre group is a dream come true for the Freestones, who’ve carried the load since founding the community theatre in 1973. Do the math and you’ll find that’s 47 years of quality productions.

“We’ve been looking for successors since the mid-1980s, but finances always proved a problem,” said Burson Freestone. “The great success of our ‘Spamalot’ production in the 2017-2018 season, along with financial underwriting from The Paul and Amy Hach Foundation, are largely responsible for allowing this management change.” 

OpenStage is unique in Northern Colorado in that it truly is a theatrical “company.”

“Other places it’s all about ‘me,’ said Hughes. “With OpenStage it’s all about ‘us.’ We are a company of artists, which means we focus on developing talent and technical skills, while producing quality theatre.”

Smith notes her goal is to make OpenStage the Steppenwolf Theatre of the Rockies. (The famed Chicago company is the country’s premier ensemble theatre.)

Meanwhile, Hughes is focused on taking OpenStage to the next level. “We are working towards paying our company on the industry standard. Part of that component is working with the City to ensure culture is sustainable.  We want people to choose Fort Collins for reasons other than their job.”






“The Full Monty,” Nov. 2 to Nov. 30

“Men on Boats,” Jan. 18 to Feb. 15

“Rumors,” March 28 to April 25

“Ken Ludwig’s Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood,” May 30 to June 27




“Every Brilliant Thing,” Sept. 27 to Oct. 19

“Constellations,” Feb. 28 to March 21


Visit for more information and tickets.

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