Renovations to bring Mary Rippon Theatre complex into the 21st century
Since 1944, the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre has been an artistic hub, a singular venue that’s attracted artists, performers and musicians from across the country and across the globe.
The outdoor venue has hosted the Colorado Shakespeare Festival for more than 60 years, and its stone tiered seats and stage are one of the state’s most distinctive theatrical spaces. More than simply a stage for performers, the Rippon also represents a one-of-a-kind educational space for University of Colorado students. Nestled between the Henderson Museum and the Hellems Art and Sciences buildings, two of the most venerable spaces on the Boulder campus, the Rippon has long served as a practical learning space for theater students at CU.
Generations of students, educators and theatergoers have known the Rippon in its current form, but after the 2023 summer season, this iconic space will begin to undergo a makeover. A large-scale renovation project is set to begin updating the Hellems building, which frames the Rippon. Ultimately, this project will result in updated, improved learning spaces for students in Hellems itself, and better access, drainage, bathroom facilities and other amenities for performers, patrons and students experiencing the Mary Rippon Theatre.
“This renovation will improve the way that students and Shakespeare Festival patrons interact with the Rippon space,” said CSF Producing Artistic Director Tim Orr. “The improvements to access for our patrons and for the students using that space during the school year will be extraordinary and wonderful.”
The construction will result in shifts to CSF’s summer season in the next year. The 2024 CSF season will feature productions indoors in the newly renovated Roe Green Theatre, where state-of-the-art acoustics will enhance the patron experience. While longtime patrons of the festival will miss the outdoor experience in 2024, the festival is planning to present some top-notch titles to entice audiences indoors during the Hellems construction.
The payoff will be worth the changes. As one of CU’s most heavily used academic buildings, Hellems will be updated for the 21st century, improvements that are bound to have a beneficial effect on the Colorado cultural tradition that the Rippon has long hosted.
“The buildings that surround the Rippon are part of the historic heart of the campus. They’re some of the oldest buildings at CU. The Rippon is nestled within that complex,” Orr says. “This theater is such a wonderful resource for the students at the university. It’s our hope that these updates will integrate the festival even more into the academic experience of the student body.”
In the meantime, theatergoers have one last chance to see the Rippon complex in its current form. The 2023 CSF season will include some of William Shakespeare’s best-loved works, including “King Lear” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“After this summer, this current version of the Rippon will only live in our memories. We really wanted to make it a celebration of the most towering works of Shakespeare,” Orr said. “Come on the journey with us.”