Husband-wife team Rebecca Remaly and Stephen Weitz started the national award-winning Butterfly Effect Theatre Company (BETC) in 2006. The couple finished their tenure July 1, passing the baton to colleagues Mark Ragan and Jessica Robblee, BETC’s respective managing director and artistic director.
Jessica and Mark, both actors, directors and producers who co-founded Denver-based theater company Clover & Bee Productions earlier this year, will continue Clover & Bee as an arm of BETC. Clover & Bee will highlight more than just theater, including one-off musical events, lectures, plus stage readings in Denver—Clover & Bee’s home theater is The Savoy. BETC will continue its four-yearly mainstage shows, including this fall’s productions of “Coal Country” and “The Belle of Amherst.”
“They’re very different pieces,” Jessica says of BETC’s fall shows. “That’s the kind of season I like to have, where you get a wild smorgasbord of experiences and stories.”
October 26 - November 19 at the Dairy Arts Center
“Coal Country” is a retelling of a 2010 explosion in a small West Virginia community that claimed 29 miners’ lives. BETC will be the first theater company to produce the play professionally outside of New York.
Over a 90-minute run time, nine actors recall the catastrophic event and its aftermath, their roles inspired by the playwrights’ interviews with victims’ relatives. In what’s called documentarian or verbatim theater, the playwrights constructed around 95% of the production’s script directly from these interviews.
“You could not write monologues that are this beautiful,” Mark says. The play, he adds, is “about how the human spirit survives such an incredible tragedy.”
“I love meeting these people, the way they speak, the way they share how they met. They’re so specific and honest,” Jessica says. “It broadens our view of each other and engenders connections between people sitting in Boulder and people who might feel super far away. It takes that geographic space, socioeconomic space, or difference of field or difference of interest and, all of a sudden, we’re right here together.”
One of Jessica’s favorite things about “Coal Country” is how it centers on a group that people don’t often get to hear from. She says that, while “big coal” occasionally makes news headlines, the media rarely features individuals involved in the industry.
“Coal miners, like so many other segments of our society, are voiceless,” Mark says. This is a prominent theme in the play. “The powerful always win, or at least in the eyes of a lot of the disenfranchised.”
The Belle of Amherst
November 2 - 12 at the Millibo Art Theatre in Colorado Springs, November 22 - 26 at the Dairy Arts Center
Jessica plays Emily Dickinson in this one-woman show about the poet’s career and life. “The Belle of Amherst” was Clover & Bee’s first production, which Jessica and Mark are now reprising with BETC (appropriate, considering the pair named Clover & Bee after a line in one of Emily Dickinson’s poems).
After Clover & Bee’s initial production of “The Belle of Amherst,” Jessica has been nominated for the 2023 Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Awards. For the BETC production, Jessica once again portrays the poet’s humor and how she defied societal norms throughout her life.
Though Emily Dickinson grew up in a religious family, “Her worship happened more through her connection with nature,” Jessica says. “That was a huge rule to break in her time, and it was a huge rule to break that she didn’t get married.”
“Everybody calls her a recluse. She wasn’t really a recluse,” Mark says of the poet. “She just decided that the only way to be truly liberated was to be liberated in her mind, so she built a world for herself where she could enjoy that freedom.”
Though Emily Dickinson lived over 150 years ago, Jessica says her story is still relevant today. “She deals with universal things: How do I balance what I dream of doing with the world’s demands? How do I deal with losing people that I love so deeply? How do I stand my ground and love people at the same time?”