When Matt Radcliffe and Ben Mikolaj decided to start The Old Tribe Theater Project, they didn't expect opening night to arrive just two months later.
"We had a very small idea at first," says 27-year-old Radcliffe, who directs and acts in their premiere, Love: It's Complicated. "Now this is a much bigger production than we had in mind, and we're really excited."
Love: It's Complicated is an original cabaret-style show that features classic and contemporary Broadway hits. The plot comically reflects on the members' own ventures and misadventures in both love and theater.
Since their high school days in Spring, Texas, Radcliffe and Mikolaj shared a passion for theater. Through college, they mused about one day starting a troupe. But when the two enlisted in the military, they put their plans on hold.
They reunited when both were stationed at Fort Carson. Mikolaj, 26, completed his service in 2007, but it was just this past June, with Radcliffe about to finish as well, that their plans finally tripped into motion.
"Ben took this little conversation about getting the ball rolling and started making phone calls," says Radcliffe. "It just snowballed into the project that it is now."
The idea was to bring together an old group of friends, some they've known since high school theater, to put on an original show that doubled as a charity benefit, maybe in a venue for 50 or 60 people. But as word has gotten out about what the company's doing, excitement has grown; hence its move to the Colorado Springs School's 355-seat Louisa Performing Arts Center.
Already, Old Tribe has collected almost enough individual donations, in addition to funding from the El Pomar Foundation, to cover the show's expenses. Bristol Brewing Company has signed on to provide refreshments. As for tickets, which are suggested donations of $20, they will benefit FutureSelf, a local nonprofit that promotes creative expression in youths through art workshops, classes and job training.
"We're not sure if our shows will always be benefits in the future," Mikolaj says. "But we always want to make sure we give back to the community in some way."
FutureSelf's members have helped Old Tribe with stage coordination, marketing and fundraising, and Mikolaj credits them with creating some of the buzz. Others are pitching in, too. But Mikolaj makes sure to note that the other four talented troupe members has a lot to do with it as well.
One, Ben's brother Joe, is an accomplished international soloist and stage performer with a master's in vocal performance from Yale's School of Music. He made an impression on Springs audiences last year as the lead in the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
While Joe will appear in Love: It's Complicated, Ben says Sara Melvin is actually this show's "special guest performer." A longtime friend of Joe's, she's making the trip from Texas for her Colorado Springs debut.
"Everyone who hears her," Ben says, "says she's got the best voice they've ever heard."
Other members include Kari Kwinn, the company's stage manager, who "married into the tribe" — she's Ben's wife — as well as Amy Lareau, who appeared in the Colorado College Student Musical Theatre Group's rendition of Assassins.
The group already has plans for the future, currently "in the pre-pre-production stage" for a holiday show.
"It's going to be kind of wacky," Radcliffe says. "Somehow were going to time travel to different decades and do classic Christmas songs that were popular for the time."