Apples don’t fall far from their tree. Back in the 1960s, John Hill’s parents were involved in community theater in Fort Collins. His mother was president of the Fort Collins Children’s Theatre and designed costumes for local theater and opera companies. As a youngster, John participated in a summer theater production of “The Music Man” performed outdoors – complete with real horses and wagons – on the football field at old Fort Collins High School. Fort Collins has always had a rich and creative artistic and cultural community.
Following the yellow brick road
Today, John is the lead theater and humanities faculty at FRCC’s Larimer Campus and founder and artistic director of the Front Range Family Theatre Project, which performs outdoors every summer on the Larimer Campus Plaza. So far, no real horses and wagons. Just a yellow brick road when the troupe presented the complete cycle of “Wizard of Oz” stories. Or turning straw to gold for “Rumpelstiltskin.” Or the ribbitting tale of “The Frog Prince.” Since 2004 the Front Range Family Theatre Project has entertained more than 18,000 children and families.
‘Cinderella’ comes back
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Front Range Family Theatre Project. To celebrate, the troupe will reprise a family favorite: “Cinderella,” first performed in 2006.
“Cinderella” will be performed at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. July 9-11 and at 10:30 a.m. July 12 on the Larimer Campus Plaza. Admission is free. Bring your own blankets, water, sunscreen, and bug spray.
Collegiate theater honors
During John’s 18-year commitment to collegiate theater at FRCC, he has been recognized twice with a President’s Regional Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. In 2008, John was awarded the Kennedy Center Medallion. The medallion, a national honor, recognizes extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theater and to the development and quality of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The numbered medallions commemorate the dedication of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1971. The medallion is cast of the same bronze that was used to make the towering bust of President Kennedy in the center’s grand foyer.
Spirit of Loretto Award
In 2010, John’s alma mater, Loretto Heights College, gave him the Spirit of Loretto Award, which honors graduates for their outstanding career achievements and significant contributions to the community over the years. Although the college closed in 1988 with alumni services and some academic programs moving to Regis University, the Spirit of Loretto Award lives on.
Master Teacher nominee
Children and their families know John from the summer theater productions on campus, and the Paint Box Theatre Project (an annual elementary school touring program that has brought live theater to nearly 15,000 school children in the past six years.), but FRCC students know John for his classroom work. Twice John has been nominated by students for the Master Teacher Award.
“I like watching the lights come on, seeing when the student connects,” John says. “Some professors may think they’re the retainers of knowledge to funnel into the ears of students. I don’t. I see myself as a facilitator, a tour guide, if you will. I show them the options.”
It’s working. In 1998 John started teaching one theater class a semester at FRCC, and 18 years later, six to nine theater classes are offered each semester, and at least three theatrical productions are mounted each year.
John says, “Theater is an experience that must be shared to truly be appreciated, our students achieve deeper learning when they can engage an audience and know they have touched someone with their art and craft.”