Getting To Know: Keith Ewer and his hammered dulcimer

By Leslie Simon
Keith Ewer has worked on every musical production the Arvada Center has produced since 1987, and yet he is still finding new challenges for himself! When we decided to produce immersive theatre with Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, the idea came up that the immersion should begin in the lobby. Read on to find out more about what a typical day looks like for Keith (hint - there's no such thing as a typical day) and then come hear him for yourself by attending a performance of this immersive musical.
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Q: To be involved in every musical production we have had since 1987 is a huge accomplishment! How did you end up at the Arvada Center in the first place?
A: Producer and Music Director Rick Seeber brought me with him from the old Aladdin Theatre on Colfax to play percussion in The Pirates of Penzance. When he left, the Center kept asking me back for each successive show. I'm very fortunate!
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Q: What has kept you around for this long?
A: Well, it's the wonderful people who work here and the amazing audiences. Also, the professional shows we present are extremely rewarding to be involved in. Lisa Hoffman, our Artistic Associate (who has been here almost as long as I have) and I were talking a couple of weeks ago about the quality of our Theater for Young Audiences production, A Year With Frog and Toad, and she said that it is that high quality product that we constantly strive for which is what keeps us here.
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Q: In what ways are you involved with these musical productions? What does a typical day look like for you?
A: Ha! You make me laugh! All of my coworkers make fun of the fact that none of us can really say what it is I do. And probably another reason I love it here is that no day is the same. As I write this I'm in one of our afternoon tech rehearsals for Natasha and Pierre. I play the percussion part when needed but I'm on stage so I have to make sure I'm in the spot I'm supposed to be for lighting purposes. I found a replacement battery for our Mandolin artist's battery pack. 
I talked with with Lisa Hoffman about about a possible TYA production for next season as I have music directed most TYA productions since the late 90s. I arranged a ticket for one of our possible substitute musicians to see the show tonight. I transcribed an arrangement our music director wrote for Natasha and Pierre for the pit musicians. By the way, I hire the musicians for our productions so I take care of their needs as well.
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Q: Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 is an immersive theatre experience from the moment audiences walk into the lobby. Whose idea was it to have you play in the lobby before the show, and what makes you excited about this new opportunity?
A: In a production meeting we were all coming up with ideas to make the lobby as immersive as the theater including having music. I had thought the hammered dulcimer had the kind of Eastern European cultural sound we were looking for. It seemed to take up a life of its own and since I volunteered... so I bought myself a hammered dulcimer for Christmas and started to figure it out.
The challenge of learning a new instrument is just awesome! Learning what's possible on it has been very rewarding. It seems that every day I discover something new. 
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Q: Any funny moments from past productions you would like to share?
A: Oh, so many moments! Here's one - Singin' In The Rain which took place in the summer of 1998 was being performed in the Amphitheatre. The part of the set which had an ingenious rain making system for the signature dance scene sprung a leak. Quite a bit of water came directly into the pit and fell onto many people and instruments including an electronic keyboard. At intermission we dumped water from the keyboard into a five gallon bucket and filled it half way up! Believe it or not we used the keyboard in the second act. It worked! Plus, no one was electrocuted! 
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