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Curtains Up Pagosa! patrons assist local actor

Special to The PREVIEW

Photo courtesy Sally Neel Curtains Up, Pagosa! presented Max Miller a check for $3,400 to assist him with tuition and expenses at the New York Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts this summer. The check is a result of Cash for CUPS donations made at the door following each performance of “Pippin,” in which Miller played the starring role. 

Photo courtesy Sally Neel
Curtains Up, Pagosa! presented Max Miller a check for $3,400 to assist him with tuition and expenses at the New York Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts this summer. The check is a result of Cash for CUPS donations made at the door following each performance of “Pippin,” in which Miller played the starring role.

Curtains Up, Pagosa! recently closed the curtains on their production of “Pippin.” The musical featured the talents of some of CUP’s most talented and promising student actors, delighting audiences night after night with their energy, passion and skill.

But, “Pippin” had its behind-the-scenes dramatic moments as well.  Just weeks before the curtains were to go up, the actor who was to play the role of Pippin resigned from the role for personal reasons, leaving the directors, cast and crew seriously wondering if the show could indeed go on.

“There was quite a bit of angst among us,” said director Dale Johnson.  “Everyone had already put in a lot of work learning music, choreography, blocking, and lines.  Money had been spent on royalties, costumes, scenery, publicity, and other sundry things. The pit orchestra had already put in weeks of rehearsals as well. We were in a very serious bind.

“We scratched our heads and asked the question, ‘Who has the capability of stepping in at the last minute and take on this huge role?’ And we came up with only one name: Max Miller.”

Miller is a CUP scholar entering his sophomore year at University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where he is majoring in musical theater. He was originally cast in the role of Lewis, Pippin’s younger brother.

Miller was recently selected to participate in a month-long film acting course at New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.  He was working two jobs to help fund his trip and the cost of the training.

However, about a week into the intensive rehearsals, Miller realized that he simply could not dedicate the time it deserved while working two jobs. He made the decision to quit one of his jobs. “We were stunned. No one ever would presume to ask him to do such a thing,” said Johnson. “This was a decision he made on his own.  He was more interested in doing a good job as Pippin than worrying about the money.”

“I just had to believe that things would work out,” said Miller. Miller sent a letter to CUP asking for assistance with the tuition and expenses. “I really had no idea what CUP would be able to do,” says Miller. “I was working every legitimate angle I could think of to find the $5,000 it would take to go to NYC.”

The CUP board considered the fact that Max had stepped in at the last minute to make sure the show would go on.  They looked at the organization’s balance sheets and agreed to make a donation to help him with his expenses. But another idea also surfaced.  Why not get the patrons involved?

Before each performance, CUP president Bill Stine explained Max’s plight and announced that the “Cash for CUPS” donations taken at the door after each performance would go towards helping Max go to New York.

“We have always known that our audiences are faithful and generous,” said Stine. “But the results of this campaign went far beyond anyone’s expectations. Each night we saw people putting in bills ranging from one to a hundred dollars.  One person donated a check for one thousand dollars.”  Cash for CUPS collected enough money to write Miller a check in the amount of $3,400, which he will apply towards fulfilling his goal and dream.

“I am totally blown away by this,” says Miller.  “I always knew that people in Pagosa Springs are generous people, but I had no expectations of anything like this.  I cannot thank them enough.  I am humbled.  I promise I will continue to do my best to live up to their belief in me.”

Miller is now in New York City participating in intensive acting classes, working to improve his craft.  This, he can do in full knowledge that Curtains Up Pagosa! and its loyal patrons have his back.

This story was posted on July 18, 2013.