The History of Starlight Mountain Theatre
Starlight Mountain Theatre is the culmination of a life-long dream of R. Ed Davis. I (Ed) spent seven years pursuing an M.F.A. Degree in Theatre and Directing, and dreamed of returning to Idaho , the home of my youth, to design and open a professional outdoor theatre. Everyone in life has a dream. “Opening a summer-stock theatre had always been mine.”
I got my start in theatre in the Southern Nevada town of Mesquite . I had just returned form my mission to London England, when the local community theatre group, Valley Playhouse was holding auditions for the musical Debbie, Diary of a Mormon Girl. I decided to audition and low and behold I was cast as the bad guy in the production. While participating in the production the Playhouse said they were looking for new directors. I said, “I would like to try.” That fall I directed my first production for the Playhouse, the blockbuster musical Annie. It was a great success and started my career as a theatrical director. In the cast of Annie was a future Starlight collaborator Debbie Basora. After Annie I returned to college at Southern Utah University where I minored in Theatre. During the summers I would return to Mesquite to direct shows for the playhouse. I learned my craft directing such great shows for the playhouse as Oliver, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and The Boyfriend.
After graduating from SUU I attended graduate school at the University of Mississippi where I continued honing my directing craft. On completing my MFA in directing I became a college professor teaching speech and theatre. Fast-forward ten years. I woke up on my 40th birthday with a wife, nine children (5 natural, 4 adopted), a mortgage and a comfortable position as a college professor. I was not one step closer to achieving my dream than I had been at graduation. I knew that if I didn't do something right then, I would wake up at 60 in the exact same place, never having taken the risk or worked to accomplish the vision in my mind. That uncomfortable jolt was a turning point in my life. With the full support of my loving wife, Jan, and our wonderful children, I resigned from the college, sold our home, packed up the furniture and headed home to Idaho .
Everyone receives special blessings in life. Mine came in the form of my parents, Ed Sr., and Thelma. They had always encouraged us kids to follow our dreams and were more than willing to help in any way they could. They loved the idea of starting a theatre and jumped aboard the Starlight bandwagon as our financial partners, literally mortgaging their home and ranch, and selling pieces of property to get the ball rolling.
Between the four of us, we had the basics covered. Dad (Ed, Sr. was a contractor who could help me build the actual theatre and the set pieces for the stage. Mom (Thelma) is a phenomenal seamstress and could design and costume each show. My wife, Jan, has a degree in Musical Theatre and years of experience as a choreographer. As the Artistic Director, my experience was in both technical support and directing the actual productions. So, after registering the theatre name, we purchased 18 acres, cleared the land, advertised auditions, and... held our breath!
The rest, as they say, is history, although not without its ups and downs. Starlight Mountain Theatre opened in May of 2000, but for the first month or so, we were playing to audiences of 4, 6 and 10 people. Hundreds of thousands dollars in debt, we began to wonder if the "'dream” was turning into a nightmare! Then, in July, something amazing happened. The few good folks who had visited Starlight had been telling their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers about the theatre and the good time they had, so, their friends starting coming. And then they came back with their friends, who returned with their friends, who invited their friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. Pretty soon we broke 50 in attendance, then 75, then 100. By the end of the season, we were seating 200-300 patrons and people were asking about season tickets for the next year. Slowly, we began letting out the breath we had been holding since May.
After a few season, the growth had been so, we knew as a family that we needed some help, so we started the process of becoming a nonprofit theatre. We were awarded our 501, 3c letter early in 2005 and we also hired our first fulltime employee, Wes Nelson, who was not a family member.
This is my version of how Starlight started. I'd like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the friends and family that have helped us along the way. The dream of “Starlight” would not have come to pass without the hard work of a lot of wonderful people.
With warmest regards,
R. Ed Davis
Executive/Artistic Director, Starlight Mountain Theatre