On Wednesday, Feb. 24, a break-in occurred at Golden’s Miners Alley Playhouse that resulted in thousands of dollars in damage to the theater.
But by Monday, what had started as a week of anger and frustration had become one of gratitude and joy as donations poured in to help Miners Alley, which has spent the last twelve months dealing with the ramifications of the pandemic that left it closed to live performances.
“The end of the story is the story of the theater community and the community of Golden rallying around us and helping us out and being there for us,” said Miners Alley Playhouse owner Len Matheo. “And it turned out OK in that sense.”
Matheo said employees first noticed that a break-in had occurred at the theater on Feb. 26, after no staff had been the theater the previous day.
They checked the theater’s six surveillance tapes and found footage of a man attempting to gain access to the theater and eventually entering it at around 5:50 p.m on Feb. 24. The man carried a flashlight as well as a bag he was putting stuff in, Matheo said.
“We just watched him on the video going around looking for stuff and taking cash boxes from the box office and breaking doors,” said Matheo. “He broke down a door behind the bar to see what was in there.”
Miners Alley has posted a photo of the man taken from the surveillance video, which shows his eyes though much of his face is covered by a mask.
`The suspect is described as a white or light-complected male dressed in a hoodie and pants,” said Golden Police Sgt. Denise Mehnert. “It was hard to clarify colors of clothing and descriptions because of the grainy quality of the video.”
Matheo said the cost of the damage and money stolen will total “a few thousand dollars.”
“Honestly, I think we dodged a bullet because there was so much valuable equipment that he didn’t touch for some reason,” said Matheo. “He was just looking for cash I think.”
Miners Alley has since received the good news that the damage will be covered by the theater’s insurance provider. That leaves the theater to pay only its deductible, an amount which it has since received “more than enough” in donations to cover.
For Matheo, the level of generosity that has come in the wake of the break-in has led to a change in perspective about the man did it.
“Honestly, the theater community and the greater Golden community would have been there for this guy,” said Matheo. “That’s the message that I want to get across that this doesn’t have to happen and there are plenty of good people out there and good communities out there that will help people.”
Playing out amid a pandemic
The break-in represented yet another challenge for a theater that has had to shift its programming online after being unable to hold live performances for a year.
Especially frustrating as of late, Matheo said, are what he calls “a really big inconsistency in how the rules for gatherings are enforced” that have essentially prevented his and other theaters from being able to resume live performances even as restaurants are operating at higher and higher capacities.
Jeffco is currently in Level Blue of the Colorado COVID-19 dial, which requires that speaking performers be a minimum of 25 feet away from an audience. That requirement makes it almost impossible to host a live show, even at a reduced capacity, in Miners Alley, which has only 130 seats.
“I find this inconsistency of rules really frustrating and it’s really stopping us from moving forward,” said Matheo.
Still, the news hasn’t been all bad as the theater continues to host online shows and even held outdoor camps for kids over the summer.
“The good news is that there is a lot of assistance out there and we are still paying our staff and we still have found a way to do that,” said Matheo. “But it’s going to run out and so at some point they’ve got to let the performing arts do their job and at least give consumers the opportunity to make a decision and say `I want to go or I don’t want to go’ just like they’ve done with restaurants.”
But while Miners Alley won’t host in-person shows until the 25-foot rule goes away, Matheo said he is looking forward to the future of his theater.
“We’re here for the community if they need us and clearly the community has been here for us,” he said. “So we look forward to having 20,000 visitors a year and creating community in Golden with our theater.”