Grand Junction Free Press

Mirth Theater to provide a community ‘living room' in Fruita

By Sharon Sullivan
Free Press Staff Writer,

Interested in a game of ping-pong?

Or a philosophical discussion with friends?

Maybe you just need a place to come play your mandolin for a few hours.

The Hot Tomato Cafe's former storefront at 201 Aspen Ave. has been revived as an arts and cultural space for people to come hang out and have fun.

“It's a place for anyone who's creative and artistic to come show off their stuff,” said Max Connors, who along with Josh Ott, both of Fruita, rents the space from the Fruita Masons.

“We like to think of it as Fruita's living room,” Connors said.

Another Fruita resident, Cullen Purser is launching an interview series called “A Cavalcade of Interesting People.” He'll kick off his first interview Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. with Rebecca Davis Winters, an author, music historian and runeologist. Winters is the author of “Blind Owl Blues: The Mysterious Life and Death of Blues Legend Alan Wilson.”

Connors, 42, and Ott, 39, run poetry night down the street at Aspen Street Coffee. The two had other ideas for additional events, but lacked the space — thus, they decided to rent 201 Aspen.

There's nothing for sale — nor are there admission fees, although they're contemplating selling T-shirts in the future.

“We fund it out of our pocket and eagerly accept donations,” Connor said.

Part of the purpose is to get people out and “loitering” on Main Street, Ott said.

“We hope to help other businesses” by drawing people downtown, he said.

“Yesterday a girl came and played the mandolin. People were wandering in and out.”

Connors is also looking to host community theater. He'll hold a casting call Feb. 6 for “All in the Timing” — six one-act plays by David Ives. Roles include those for both men and women.

Additionally, Michelle Cools will sell clothing in the back of the shop. Her Michelle Cools Ones (because there's only one of any item) are handmade from vintage clothing and recycled materials.

There are no set hours when Mirth Theater is open. Ott, a fabricator, and Connors, who works at Over the Edge bike shop, open the shop when they feel like it, or when someone gives them a call. They're often there in the mornings and evenings, Connors said.

“It's not what everyone is used to, or expecting,” Connors said.

“We want it to be interesting, challenging, fun and spontaneous.”