Westporters love Staples Players.
Since 1958, the high school drama troupe has produced hundreds of musicals, dramas, Shakespeare plays, even an original anti-war show that won national awards and ended up at the UN.
Some people know the back story: In the ’50s, Staples student Christopher Lloyd asked his English teacher, Craig Matheson, for help starting a drama club.
Yes, that Christopher Lloyd. The rest is theatrical history.
Ten years later, Mark Groth served as president of Players’ Stage and Technical Staff. Now — nearly 6 decades after that — he has a story to tell.
And it involves Christopher Lloyd.
You hear that voice, and you know immediately who it is.
I was watching the “Mandalorian” (I know, I’m slow), and I heard it.
Holy %#*!! That’s Christopher Lloyd, as a bad guy.
He is now is 84 years old. Back at the Players’ 50th anniversary alumni celebration, Peter Hirst and I had a chance to talk to Craig Matheson about Players’ history.
He told us stories about Christopher Lloyd, and some “interesting” tales about what he was like back then.
Craig was incredibly supportive of him, and made sure he graduated. Chris really was the first Staples Player alum.
1958 yearbook photo and writeup. (Courtesy of Jack Backiel)
Back to now. I am not a big fan of “fan expos,” with their stable of “celebrities,” and all manner of costumes, merchandise and true believers in full array.
But I saw that Christopher Lloyd would be at the Denver Convention Center, not far from my home.
The ticket was mostly affordable attendance, with a stunning cost for the live autograph session.
As Doc Brown would say, “well, what the hell.”
The room is about 1 1/2 football fields. It held over 200 exhibitors. There were 40 signing tables for autographs of stars.
I got there at 3 p.m. for a 4 p.m. signing time. Thirty serious fans were already in line — including a full-dress Doc Brown (white coat, white wig, carrying an RC car controller with antenna).
They were selling posters, model DeLoreans (at about the price of a real one), key chains, etc.
Chris showed up at 4:20, and started signing. He took a break just as I got to the front.
I was up first when he came back. I introduced myself as a 1967 Staples Player from Westport. I told him that Craig Matheson, who he might remember, spoke of him as being there at the beginning.
I said Craig has told us some stories about him. He smiled said, “let’s not get into that.”
I explained it was apparent he was the very first Players alumnus. I wanted his autograph to put in the Players archives, so folks could see it and celebrate his history.
I told him Craig was very proud of his trifecta resume of cinema, television and live theater.
He was very pleased, and signed the sheet I brought. I told him it was only 6 decades, but if he would accept, I would like to finally give him his own Players t-shirt.
I had my 50th anniversary t-shirt that I had only worn once, newly washed and ironed. He was very moved.
I handed it to him, and asked if I could get a photo. He smiled, held it up and thanked me.
I thanked him for a lifetime of enjoyment of his work. He reached out and shook my hand.
It was an honor to meet and talk with him. He is a charming man — and still working.
And — speaking of the future: “Back to the Future: The Musical” is in previews right now. The official opening date is August 3.
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Colorado Governor Jared Polis takes a selfie with Christopher Lloyd. (All photos/Mark Groth)