721 Santa Fe Drive
Sat 10AM–4PM, Sun Closed
Architect: Henry Lowenstein
Year Built: 1921 as the Cameron Movie Theater, opened in 1922
Cost: $75,000 by Liberty Theater Corp.
Renovations: 1950s, 2003, 2010
Su Teatro (Your Theater) is housed in the Denver Civic Theatre, which was created by theatre impresario, Henry Lowenstein, at the site of what was originally the Cameron Building, built in 1921 as the Cameron Movie Theatre. It was owned by Consolidated Theatres in 1930. During the 1950s and 1960s, the building was used as a meatpacking plant before it became a photography studio and then the Denver Civic Theater. It was renovated in 2003. In 2009, after years of raising funds to build a new facility in the Westside neighborhood, the City of Denver granted the Su Teatro a lease on the Denver Civic Theatre providing them a larger, more permanent location. Su Teatro purchased The Denver Civic Theater in 2010 from Denver.
The present facility combines three buildings that existed when Lowenstein renovated the space for live theatre. The building houses two theaters: a large proscenium theater, The Martinez Performing Arts Hall that seats 332; a smaller, flexible, black box theater, The Frank Trujillo Salon de Arte seats 134. An adjacent art gallery and cafe space is ideal for all types of events. In addition to putting on its own shows, Su Teatro rents out the facility to groups.
About Su Teatro
Su Teatro is a non-profit arts complex with an emphasis on Latino culture featuring plays, concerts, and film events. The third oldest Chicano theater in the country (only Teatro Campesino and Teatro de la Esperanza are older), Su Teatro features dual-language events—Spanish and English—that espouse social activism. The group predominantly performs pieces written by Latinx (Latino/Latina) playwrights speaking to the life experiences of those in the community.
Originally a student theater group at the University of Colorado Denver in 1971, they grew and began looking for a home. In 1989, Su Teatro, a roving theater troupe, purchased the old Elyria School in Northeast Denver. Having a home allowed the organization to expand its programming to include annual arts festivals and an arts education program in addition to a full theater season. They chose the name El Centro Su Teatro to represent a multidisciplinary cultural arts center. After that, it moved to numerous facilities around Denver, before finally settling in the Denver Civic Center at the heart of the Arts District on Santa Fe. This allowed them to expand with the renovation and helped move closer to become a regional Latino cultural arts center—the only one of its kind in the area.
Born from the Chicano Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 70s, Su Teatro got its start in 1971 performing politically charged agitprop plays and skits to support social activism and bolster civil rights causes. The 1980s saw a shift in the artistic output of Su Teatro, who began to develop full length plays focused on demystifying the Chicano identity and celebrating the experiences, history, language, and cultural heritage of Chicanos, Mexicanos, and Latinos throughout the Americas.
For over 40 years, Su Teatro has established a national reputation for homegrown productions that speak to the history and experience of Chicanos. Su Teatro has created more than 15 original full-length productions that have toured widely to venues such as New York’s Public Theater, The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, San Antonio, TX, and Plaza de la Raza, Los Angeles, CA. The artistic excellence and relevance to the field has been recognized nationally through funding from The Shubert Foundation, Theatre Communications Group, the National Performance Network, The National Endowment for the Arts, the Kresge Foundation, and the American Composers Forum.
Being on Santa Fe and near La Alma/Lincoln Park is an ideal base for the company, since it is Denver’s historic Latino neighborhood. La Alma/Lincoln Park is the anchor of the oldest Chicano/Latino barrio in the city, which once also included the Auraria community. This tight knit community produced working families, teachers, professionals, and artists. Many Chicanos throughout the city have deep roots in the Westside.
The neighborhood of Lincoln Park has seen many changes over the course of its long history, which dates from the very beginning of Denver itself. Much of the architecture and history of the area has been overwritten multiple times. Lincoln Park has hosted everything from farms to a military camp, railroads, residents, activists, and artists. Its history includes public housing projects and a cultural arts district to boot. Lincoln Park owes its earliest beginnings to its closest neighbor, Auraria.
Santa Fe Drive historically hosted small mom-and-pop shops serving the community's daily needs, anchored by two movie theaters: the Cameron Movie Theater at 7th (built in 1922), and the Santa Fe Movie Theater at 10th (built in 1927). Two movie theaters within three blocks of each other did not constitute a poor business plan back in the 1920s, when television had yet to begin siphoning off the audience. By the late 1950s, however, both theaters were in poor repair and the theater audience was much sparser. Both theaters were vacant for a number of years.
Today La Alma-Lincoln Park is a vibrant, mixed-use, urban community with parks, major health services, an arts district and cultural facilities, grocery store, and close proximity to downtown, higher education institutions, Colorado Ballet, and Denver’s theater district, museum district, and major sports and concert venues. It is well-served by a variety of transportation options, including light rail and bus service, bike routes and B-Cycle stations, and a rotating inventory of car2go vehicles. A diverse neighborhood, it is anchored by the Santa Fe Arts District (the Art District on Santa Fe is one of Colorado's designated Creative Districts, with more than 60 art galleries, studios, and innovative businesses). It is also one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods; 93% of its residential blocks were half or more developed before 1900 and the remaining 7% developed between 1900 and 1914. Seven locations are on the National Register of Historic Places, four are Denver Historic Landmarks, and 20 qualify for historic preservation under Chapter 30 of the Denver Revised Code.
Tony Garcia has been the Executive Artistic Director of El Centro Su Teatro since 1989 and has been a member of Su Teatro since 1972. He received his BA in Theatre from the University of Colorado at Denver. Tony has received numerous awards and accolades for his artistic vision. The Denver Post named him 2010 Theatre Person of the Year. Most recently, he received the prestigious Livingston Fellowship from the Bonfils Stanton Foundation. Tony is a past faculty member for the National Association of Latino Art and Culture (NALAC) Leadership Institute as well as a former board member, he is a peer trainer for the Colorado Creative Industries’ Peer Assistance Network, and a member of the Western State Arts Federation’s (WESTAF) Board of Trustees. Tony is also an adjunct professor at Metro State College in Denver.
Henry Lowenstein survived the Holocaust to become one of Denver's most famous stage producers and considered the father of live theater in Denver. In 1967, he became general manager of the Bonfils Theatre. He retired in 1986, but soon after founded the Denver Civic Theatre, where, according to his website, “he designed and produced more than 90 shows of all types until again retiring in 1995.”
The Denver Post; Westword; A Chronology Of Film Exhibition In Denver, Colorado - 1921-30; goplaydenver.com; movie-theatre.org; La Alma/Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association; Denver Public Library archives; HenryLowenstein.com.