Actor and director excels at finding a play’s ‘human core’
By Mark Collins
Theater Photos by Michael Ensminger
Rebecca Remaly lets out a laugh when she remembers back to 2006, the year she and her husband, Stephen Weitz, started Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. She then compares the venture to getting a dog when you’re in college. Fun idea? Sure. A little naive? Oh, yes. “We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,” Remaly says. “But, you know, we’ve kept the puppy.”
That former puppy of a theater company just completed its eighth and most successful season. Since 2006, BETC (pronounce it like Betsy) has staged 28 productions and earned a reputation for bringing smart, thought-provoking plays to Boulder audiences. Remaly, who serves as BETC’s managing director, has helmed many of the company’s most artistically compelling shows.
What’s remarkable is that the 35-year-old has proven adept at directing a strikingly wide range of styles. From the whimsical An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf and the wacky The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) to the smart and complex Copenhagen, the gritty realism of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and last season’s stunner of a two-person drama, Annapurna, Remaly has shown a knack for bringing out the best in the people she casts, and creating a believable world on stage.
“She always takes care of her actors,” says Josh Hartwell, a longtime Denver metro-area performer, playwright and BETC ensemble member. Hartwell appeared in Empty Plate in 2011. “My favorite part about that show was her attention to detail. It really felt like we were in the café.” To give both audience and actors the sensory experience of being in a French restaurant, Remaly had someone cook garlic and onions backstage each night just before the performance.
And Remaly goes for the heart. “She’s really good at finding the human core of the play, regardless of the style,” says Weitz, who serves as BETC’s ensemble director, and acts and directs in BETC shows and elsewhere in Colorado. The couple moved to Boulder in 2004, when Weitz entered the CU Theatre Department’s Ph.D. program. Remaly gave birth to their son, Jamison, in May 2012.
Creative and Objective Worlds
Remaly, also a fine actor, is taking on fewer production projects nowadays in order to juggle being a mother, working full time—she’s director of processing for CU’s Office of Advancement, formerly the CU Foundation—and running BETC with her hubby. Next winter she’ll direct The Aliens, a play about three slackers that The New York Times called “an inordinately delicate drama.” “I don’t want to stretch myself too thin,” she says. “It’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to my son, not fair to a project.”
Remaly majored in math and music at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. A self-professed “numbers nerd,” she enjoys moving between the objective and creative worlds. Being fluent in both helps when it comes to making decisions for BETC. “Understanding the art side helps feed the priorities on the business side of things,” Remaly says. “Like, understanding you can’t do a certain show for [a low amount of money] and have it be the quality you want. You can’t just slash the budget. The two sides have to be woven together.”
Boulder’s theater scene is diverse, Remaly says. “We sort of have something for everyone. There’s Boulder’s Dinner Theatre, there’s the Shakespeare Festival, there are companies like Catamounts and square product theatre, which all offer a very different but very legitimate aspect of the performing arts.”
BETC isn’t trying to draw audiences away from the other local theater companies, she adds. “A lot of people call Boulder an arts town, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a science community, it’s an outdoors community. I feel like we’re not competing with other theater companies for patrons. We’re competing for Boulderites’ time, when sometimes they would rather listen to music or hike or go skiing. It’s an ever-present challenge.”
Sort of like taking care of a puppy.
Mark Collins is a freelance writer and an actor.