The Company of Fools (CoF) theater group has been putting on world-class stage productions in the Wood River Valley since the group relocated to Hailey in 1996. Founded in Rusty Wilson’s unheated garage in Richmond, Virginia in May 1992, Wilson and original CoF members Vicki Bodin, John Glenn, Denise Simone, Robert Throckmorton and Joel Vilinsky took inspiration for their name from an essay by visual artist Cecil Collins, “The Vision of the Fool”. Collins describes the fool as embodying truth, joy, creativity and a childlike wonder of all that is magical and mysterious. The CoF went on to launch three productions in their four years in the garage before Wilson and Simone relocated to Hailey to continue their work on the stage of Hailey’s Liberty Theatre, the Fools’ home.
In November 2012, the CoF merged with the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, becoming part of what is now the largest arts institution in the state of Idaho. And now, over 20 years later, the CoF is recognized for its award-winning theatre and arts education programming it has brought to the community. The group and the individuals who make it up have been consistently recognized for their contributions to the arts; Simone and Glenn are both recipients of the Idaho Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts—Simone in 2014 and Glenn in 2016. In 2009 the Company was awarded Arts Advocate of the Year by the Sun Valley/Ketchum and Hailey Chambers of Commerce. In 2004, Company of Fools was honored as a recipient of the Idaho Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. In December 2000, the Company became the first theatre in Idaho’s history to receive Constituent Theatre status from Theatre Communication Group, the national organization for the professional, nonprofit American theatre.
Moving forward, in 2017, the historic Liberty Theatre in Hailey was gifted to The Center by Demi Moore and Bruce Willis and will remain the Company of Fools’ permanent residence.
There are four main-stage productions that the Cof produces per year as well as a play reading series. Past performances have includedYou’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Glass Menagerie, and Waiting for Godot.
Theater Classes and Workshops
As part of the CoF’s community outreach, they host periodic theater classes and workshops for adults and teensthat might last a few hours to an intensive weeklong workshop on topics like improv, set design, and movement.
Stages of Wonder
Stages of Wonder is the CoF program that engages elementary school children in four schools in Blaine County in theater through a combination of storytelling, role-playing, theater games and exercises for each grade level. Members of the Fools come into the schools and interact in both structured and improvised sessions. The program began in 1997 to address the absence of theater and theater education in elementary schools. In the course of its 22 years, Stages of Wonder has served more than 24,000 students in the Wood River Valley. CoF has also brought the program to child-focused nonprofit organizations like Sun Valley Adaptive Sports, Y-On-Wheels, YAK!, the Magic Valley Boys and Girls Club and Camp Rainbow Gold.
The Liberty Theatre and the John C Glenn Legacy Fund
The original Liberty Theatre in Hailey was built in the early 1900s in its present location. The original building was once used to screen silent films as well as for outdoor ice-skating; the present-day theatre was built in 1938 using cinder bricks from Burley, Idaho. The building was sold in 1973 and then again in 1994 to Bruce Willis and Demi Moore who worked to restore the theatre. The CoF moved in in 1996 and in 2017 Willis and Moore gifted the theatre to the Fools. Despite its storied history and efforts to restore it, the theatre itself still needs refurbishing. The Sun Valley Center for the Arts and the Company of Fools started the John C Glenn Legacy Fund in 2017 in honor of the late Fools Artistic Director John C Glenn. The money donated to this fund will be used to restore the Liberty Theatre in its projects to support physical, structural and programmatic needs. Future plans are to lay the foundation for an expanded lobby space, new restrooms, a donor and founder’s lounge, new lighting and sound equipment, and new theatre seating