You can’t tell the story of Denver’s Santa Fe Art District and the city’s theater scene without mentioning Su Teatro. Created by a student-organized theater group at the University of Colorado at Denver, Su Teatro started at the height of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. The group focused on telling stories of the civil rights movement, and was a staple at picket lines, parks, and political rallies.
As time went on, Su Teatro began to do plays at rental spaces throughout the city like the Denver Center and Slightly off Center before performing “Intro to Chicano History: 101” at Joseph Papp’s Festival Latino in New York City.
In 1989, the company purchased the Historic Elyria School in northeast Denver and became El Centro Su Teatro — a multidisciplinary cultural arts center that produces full theatrical seasons and programs that are still around today, like the Chicano Music Festival, the XicanIndie FilmFest and the Cultural Arts Education institute.
After a phone call with former Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the mayor and the city facilitated negotiations with Evergreen Bank to help Su Teatro secure a $780,000 mortgage at the beginning of the post-2008 real estate crash market. So, in 2010, the organization moved into 721 Santa Fe Drive in Denver — the location Su Teatro has since called home.
And toward the end of last year, the organization announced it had paid off the final balance on the mortgage, ensuring that the former Denver Civic Theatre is officially under the group’s control.
Su Teatro said in a release that by paying off its mortgage, it resisted the wave of gentrification and displacement throughout the Denver metro area. It called the event a significant achievement in its history and to celebrate, the organization will hold a ceremonial burning of the mortgage.
The event will take place on Friday, Jan. 27 at 4 p.m. at a parking lot on the 7th avenue side of the Su Teatro building where the organization will toast to the community and its success. There will also be food, drinks, and music to celebrate.
The sale of the Elyria Elementary School building in 2013 helped Su Teatro reduce its mortgage debt along with the production of “Northside” by Bobby LeFebre — a play about gentrification in Denver. The production of the play kicked off a seat naming Legacy campaign to pay off the last $250,000 Su Teatro owed on the building. The cam- paign involved 250 donors who paid $1,000 a seat.
Outside of the mortgage burning, Su Teatro has other events coming up this year, including the performance of the play “El Espíritu Natural.” The play is written and directed by Anthony J Garcia and will be performed March 9-26. The play’s description reads “Join NitaLuna and NeldaRio on the adventure of a lifetime, as they save their family, their memories and the world.”
More information about Su Teatro can be found at suteatro.org.