No one should have to pay to perform. That’s the guiding premise behind Greenwood’s Pocket Theater, which opened in 2014. Fledgling artists generally have to rent space to show off their work, but Pocket forgoes the usual fee. But soon that arrangement amendable to creatives will end.
After five years, the space will host its final show on December 21.
Pocket Theater’s current owner Sarah (who has asked to only use their first name) has no plans to open another theater. As many new media platforms gain popularity and artists are finding new ways to promote their work, Sarah believes that the business model is no longer sustainable. (Volunteers make up the bartenders, ushers, and stage managers, and the theater would profit from the ticket sales at the door and the bar and concession revenue.) That coupled with the rising cost of rent are the main reasons for the theater’s closing.
Sustainable or not, the Pocket used its five years in operation to give people the chance to try out the arts through classes, volunteer opportunities , and performance—an amateur comedy night, a play written in someone’s basement.
One of the many Pocket performances was a 25-minute first draft of what is now a nationally touring one-woman show, Susan Lieu’s 140 lbs: How Beauty Killed My Mother. The play, a reflection of her mother’s death during a cosmetic surgery, began began as Doctor X: How I Avenge My Mother’s Death in 2017. “I completely got my start at the Pocket,” says Lieu. “I'm devastated that they're closing because what that means is just a decrease in access for others to explore the art.”
Clayton Weller opened the small space in Greenwood July of 2014. A warm, open lobby with a bar and a black box theater, accessible to all. With a background in comedy and experience at Sketch Fest and ACT Theater, Weller coordinated groups for many different types of performances and workshops. He wanted a place where people could get their start, and in doing so, would provide marketing help, and waive that prohibitive rental fee. When he moved Denver in 2017, Weller sold the Pocket to his house manager Sarah, then a 25-year-old with a bit of improv experience. “I was like, Why not? What the hell, let’s do it.”
While Weller looked to open opportunities by breaking down financial hurtles, Sarah opened up that idea to any social barrier that could hold artists back. They focused in on promoting artists of color, disabled artists and queer artists.
While still getting the program set for the December 21 finale, Sarah hopes it will be a day full of “nonsense and playfulness.” In a greatest hits fashion, the day will be filled with performances from artists who have come to love the Pocket over the last few years.
“I'm really hoping for everyone in the community to celebrate what the Pocket was to them and everything that they did to make the Pocket what it was,” says Sarah. “The Pocket is bigger than the physical space. And I think it's the people who are the Pocket.”