Sherb

Singer Robert Francis and his band The End Times are in concert at the Sherbino Theater Jan. 28. (Courtesy photo)

“We’re ready to be back open,” Tricia Oakland said. “Last winter, we didn’t get to be open at all.”

As Ridgway’s leading cultural venue, it’s the Sherbino Theater’s mission — and therefore Oakland’s job, as its programming director — to offer film, theater, music and spoken entertainment. The Sherb’s always had a bigger role in Ridgway than that of a “mere” historic theater: it draws inspiration from the Chautauqua Society to offer programs that promote arts, culture and “lifelong learning” to locals.

As virus rates rise, the theater has become more than a landmark venue. In effect, it is a character in its own drama: its board must attempt to safely navigate a pandemic, while continuing to deliver, as Oakland put it, not only arts programming but “a sense of connection for the community.”

And so — with vaccination proof, negative testing and mask requirements all in place — and following a several-week-long break — the theater will fling open its doors to the public again next week.

First up is a screening of “Torn,” director Max Lowe’s documentary about the journey to recover the remains of his father, alpinist Alex Lowe, and cameraman David Bridges, from the slopes of Shishapangma in the Tibetan Himalaya. (The men perished while attempting a ski descent of the mountain’s north face in 1999.) A National Geographic production, “Torn” premiered at the Telluride Film Festival last fall. This is a chance to catch it on a big screen, where — given its vast setting — it is best viewed, and in any case is the only place you can see it right now (the film will soon stream on the Disney Plus channel, but hasn’t made it there yet).

“Torn” plays Tuesday night. The following night, Jan. 19, brings comedian and storyteller Monte Montepare for “An Evening of Jokes, Storytelling and Not Being on Zoom.”

“He’s super-engaging — a comedic storyteller. He’s a little different than a stand-up comedian: he draws you in with these hilarious tales,” Oakland said. “Monte’s been with us before. I think now especially, this form of comedy” — shared stories from an what has felt, to some, like an apocalyptic time — “really resonates with audiences.”

The following week, the family trivia game “Sherb Nerds” returns; and a new ski movie, “The Stomping Grounds,” from Matchstick Productions, will screen. The month ends with live music from singer-songwriter Robert Francis, who has a band with an apocalyptic title: they’re the End Times. “He’s got a rock-country-crossover sound that I think will really play well for a big segment of our community,” Oakland said. “We always strike a balance between visiting musicians who we think will resonate and local favorites.”

Looking forward, February is a good balance of that: “We have an appearance by Ridgway band Little Giant, and Telluride’s Joint Point, for a Mardi Gras Dance party.”

“We acknowledge that for some people, with certain health risks,” this may not be the time to visit an indoor theater even with health numerous precautions in place, Oakland said. “We’re going to try to add a live-streaming option,” so those at home may enjoy live events along with in-person audiences. “We want to keep our community as healthy as we can,” she added. “There are no guarantees” right now, “but we want a safe way” to offer movies and comedy and live music “and a connection for the community. It’s become something more,” she added, “than entertainment.”