John Hand Theater

Colorado Free University is proud to house this delightful theater space. Having a performance venue in our building complements our mission to bring opportunities for enrichment to the community.

Nestled in the remodeled fire bays of the old fire station that now houses Colorado Free University is The John Hand Theater. The 86-seat auditorium has been described by patrons as “charming”, “intimate”, and “our favorite community theater”.  Home to Firehouse Theater Company, the Theater also is available to other theater companies to stage shows. In normal times there is always something showing at the John Hand Theater.  

Colorado Free University is proud to house this delightful theater space. Having a performance venue in our building complements our mission to bring opportunities for enrichment to the community. Students who take classes at CFU are delighted to learn about the theater and patrons who attend shows peruse our catalog and sign up for classes.

When the pandemic hit, The John Hand Theater, like theaters across the city and nation, was shuttered. It has been a long year, but slowly folks in the theater community are making ready to bring live theater back to the community. Theater is a vibrant art that enriches those who create it as well as those who enjoy it. 

In a small theater like the Hand, the audience can feel the energy and experience the actors with a particular immediacy and intensity. Patrons who see shows in the theater appreciate that they are able to see the actors close up and can feel that they are part of the action. The theater is very user-friendly with a strong community vibe. 

Firehouse Theater Company 

Firehouse Theater Company is the resident company in the John Hand Theater. The company mounts five shows a season and makes the remaining three slots available to visiting companies to stage productions. The artistic vision of Firehouse is to tell a wide variety of stories about all kinds of people and promote empathy in the community. By looking at life from different perspectives and vicariously walking in the shoes of others, patrons and actors can deepen their understanding of others and their life journeys. 

Firehouse stages comedies, dramas, and the occasional musical. All the shows convey something meaningful about the human experience. Even as they are laughing, we want folks to have something to think and talk about as they leave the theater. 

It is the intention of Firehouse Theater Company to be welcoming to the whole community, to tell stories about the experiences of all kinds of people, and to represent diversity on and behind the stage. We want the creatives who work with us to feel respected and supported and to have a voice in a collaborative effort. We want the patrons who attend our shows to feel welcome and that they have a theater home.

As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, Firehouse is making plans to once again present live theater.  Click here to see what is coming.

Who Is John Hand and What is the Story of his Theater and the Theater Company?

John Hand had two passions, lifelong learning and Community Theater. He believed that both have the capacity to awaken our minds, inspire our souls, and foster our growth. He founded Colorado Free University in 1987 to provide the community with opportunities to share knowledge, skills, and creative passions. 

In 2001, John began offering “Readers Theater” and “Singers Theater” classes through Colorado Free University. These classes enabled novices to experience the magic of theater and to begin to develop performance skills. Over time, a core group of students from his classes joined in the creative of the Firehouse Theater Company. Productions began as showcases for the classes, but over time became more polished productions. 

At the time of John’s death in 2004, the Firehouse Theater Company was just beginning to mount main stage level shows with semi-professional actors and directors, while continuing to provide opportunities for new actors and aspiring directors to build their skills through amateur productions. John Hand founded the Firehouse Theater Company with the belief that the opportunity of putting on plays should be widely available. To him, theater provides a unique opportunity for “intensity, excellence and breakthrough.”  He wanted the Firehouse Theater Company to be a welcoming and inclusive organization. 

When he was killed in 2004, his sister, Helen Hand, joined with members of the Firehouse troupe to honor his legacy and keep his vision alive. A board of directors was established and the Firehouse Theater Company attained recognition by the IRS as a 501 (C) 3 nonprofit organization. While Helen Hand has been a part of Firehouse Theater Company since 2004, she became president of the board and de facto executive producer in 2010. She has assembled an active and enthusiastic board of directions, some who have a background in theater and some who are avid patrons. The board charts the general direction of the company, participates in play selection, and carries out many of the tasks for shows from planning budgets to running box office. 

The theater has grown since John first opened it and is now considered one of the outstanding community theaters in the city. Patrons come from all over to enjoy live theater.

Read a Message from Founder, John Hand

Why I Like Putting on Plays

Most of our days are spent compromising on quality. So many demands compete for our time and attention that “just good enough to get by” is the standard by which we judge our daily productivity. Intensity. Excellence. Breakthrough. Rare are the times we can afford to aspire to these higher standards of achievement. With so much to do, we live mostly on life’s plateaus rather than on its pinnacles.

Domains exist, though, that tend to draw us up from the median to the special. Of these, I especially like the work of participatory theatre. Cast and crew of a play have but a short time to create the gift they will offer to their audience.  Each must “act well his part,” yet they must also meld into an ensemble with chemistry, energy and good pace. The fellowship that forms is intense and precious. The product is totally visible—you can’t hide on stage. If the play is a good one, it brims with truth and superb expressions. Memorizing them, internalizing them, then giving life to them can have transformative effects on the cast. Delving into well-crafted fictional characters facilitates examination of the actor’s own inner chambers. Bringing good scripts to vigorous life comes as close to giving birth as is possible outside biology.

Plays end and casts move on to new projects. But after so much has been demanded of them and to some degree achieved, the individuals from a show are likely to take with them memories of heights, and depths, and unalloyed emotion. As they climb back down to the daily hustle, likely as not they carry the pictures in their heads of view from the summit.

John Hand