DENVER (CBS4) – In the first live performances since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company is returning to the stage. “Wild Fire,” a show about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the East Troublesome Fire is scheduled to tour Colorado, making stops in Denver, Winter Park, Dillon and Grand Junction between Aug. 16 and Aug. 22.

The show, written by Colorado Springs’ Jessica Kahkoska, follows the journeys of eight characters as they lived through the East Troublesome Fire in Grand County. The characters are fictitious, but their stories are rooted in reality.

East Troublesome Fire (credit: John Erwin)

“At its core, this is a story not about what a community lost, but what a community gained,” Kahkoska told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “This story is about the way the community in Grand County came together and responded to the East Troublesome Fire.”

The East Troublesome Fire was one of the largest fires in Colorado history, second only to the Cameron Peak Fire in Larimer County that burned at the same time. It forced the evacuation of more than 35,000 residents. Firefighters from around the country, and in Colorado, rushed to the scene to try and knock down the fire.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed.

Kahkoska said she spent months speaking with those who experienced the fire firsthand, trying to form her play around the experiences of the communities impacted.

“A play is a space to explore a lot of different experiences and a lot of different conversations,” Kahkoska said. “We began interviewing and talking to people about 4 to 6 months after the fire.”

The characters featured include a local fire marshal, a park ranger, a reporter, a rancher and other evacuated residents who were forced to come together to help their community survive the blaze.

A stone chimney and some rubble is all that’s left of a home in the Sun Valley subdivision near Grand Lake on Nov. 1. (credit: Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

“They are composites of the many amazing conversations I had with folks in Grand County and across Colorado,” Kahkoska said. “There should be someone on stage for everyone to relate to.”

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced the DCPA to shut its doors as the arts and entertainment industry all but shuttered. Creative minds were laid off, artists left without freelance work and musicians left without live audiences. With the emergence of vaccines, and lifted restrictions on social gatherings, “Wild Fire” will serve as Chris Coleman’s first opportunity to bring the DCPA Theatre Company back together in front of a live audience.

Coleman, the company’s Artistic Director, said the play should underscore how the community united during a tough time.

“People stood up for each other,” Coleman said. “Normally it is 2 to 3 years (to create a show.) We did this in 6 months. I’m thrilled that we are getting to come back. But I am even more thrilled it is with a story about this community. It is really special.”

(credit: Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

“Wild Fire” is touring Colorado, visiting the following venues:

– Levitt Pavilion Denver (Aug. 16 at 7pm)
– Dillon Amphitheater (Aug. 18 at 7pm)
– Rendezvous Event Center at Hideaway Park in Winter Park (Aug. 20 at 7pm)
– The Amphitheater at Las Colonias Park in Grand Junction (Aug. 22 at 7pm)

A portion of each ticket sold will go back to the Grand Foundation, an organization which supports residents in Grand County. Some firefighters will also be treated to each performance through a lottery system as a note of thanks for their services.

CBS4 is a proud partner of the DCPA. If you would like to purchase tickets to the event visit denvercenter.org/tickets-events/wild-fire/.

Dillon Thomas