Stars of Garden Valley
By Pamela Kleibrink Thompson, Photography by Pete Grady and courtesy of Starlight Mountain Theatre
After attending a show at the Starlight Mountain Theatre in Garden Valley last summer, Cory Tanner, president and owner of The Bolton Company, was stunned when the theater’s owner and artistic director, Ed Davis, announced that 2014 would be the theater’s last season. “It was my first time attending and I loved it. I absolutely loved it. When I learned the theater might close down, I knew we had to do something.” Tanner shared. After attending a performance of “Big River,” Tanner and his business partner Aaron Lombardo, who has a minor in theater arts, made big plans. “The acting was great and the ambiance was perfect,” stated Tanner. “This is too great to lose.”
Ed Davis and his family founded Starlight Mountain Theatre in 2000. Davis got his start in theatre in the Southern Nevada town of Mesquite when he landed the part of the villain in the musical “Debbie, Diary of a Mormon Girl.” Shortly after that Davis made his directing debut with the community theater’s production of the blockbuster musical “Annie.”
Davis earned an MFA in directing and became a college professor teaching speech and theatre, but he wasn’t entirely content, he says.
“I woke up on my 40th birthday with a wife, nine children (5 natural, 4 adopted), a mortgage, and a comfortable position as a college professor. I wasn’t a single step closer to achieving my dream than I had been at graduation. I knew that if I didn’t do something right then, I would wake up at 60 in the exact same place, never having taken the risk or worked to accomplish the vision in my mind. That uncomfortable jolt was a turning point in my life. With the full support of my loving wife, Jan, and our wonderful children, I resigned from the college, sold our home, packed up the furniture and headed home to Idaho. My parents had always encouraged us to follow our dreams, and were more than willing to help in any way they could. They loved the idea of starting a theatre and jumped aboard the Starlight bandwagon as our financial partners, literally mortgaging their home and ranch, and selling pieces of property to get the ball rolling,” Davis recalls. “Between the four of us, we had the basics covered. Dad was a contractor who could help me build the actual theatre and the set pieces for the stage. Mom was a phenomenal seamstress and could design and costume each show. My wife has a degree in Musical Theatre and years of experience as a choreographer. As the Artistic Director, my experience was in both technical support and directing the actual productions.”
Davis had been looking for a strategic partner for several years, but had given up on his search. He needed a partner to improve business and financial operations, and when Tanner approached him, he felt that the match between the two companies was a perfect fit.
For an ownership stake in Starlight Mountain Theatre, Tanner’s Bolton Company—a property management business in Meridian—will take on the management side of the theatre including fundraising, ticketing, grant-writing, and the development of a five-year plan.
Tanner’s theatrical credentials include playing the role of Frank Butler in “Annie Get Your Gun” when he was a senior at Boise High School, and more recently he was part of Boise’s Philharmonic Master Chorale last year. Tanner grew up in Boise and worked in construction with his siblings from a young age. He majored in Organizational Communication at the University of Utah and obtained an MBA at Purdue University in Indiana. His background in marketing and sales at a small company in Utah and at Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey will be great assets for Starlight Mountain Theatre.
“Ed is incredible at putting together productions at Starlight. The value we add is on the business side of the equation,” notes Tanner. Tanner’s ability to see potential in a property, evaluate its viability as an investment, and capitalize on its strengths will help build Starlight Mountain Theatre in the future.
Starlight Mountain Theatre produces high quality, family-friendly entertainment each summer in Garden Valley, Idaho. Upcoming shows are: “Cinderella,” opening May 29, “Calamity Jane The Musical,” opening June 13, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” opening June 27, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” opening July 18, and a Special Flashback Show—“Pirates of Penzance…Goes West,” runs only July 3rd and 4th.
To order tickets call (208) 462-5523.
Starlight Mountain Theatre’s goal is to raise at least $200,000 in sponsorships and donations which will be used to fund royalties for the plays they produce, support actors and production, and make improvements to the outdoor amphitheater. Visit www.StarlightMT.com to donate.