The Venue Theatre exists to provide an accepting and enriching environment for the youth of our community—for discovery, exploration, and celebration of their unique and extraordinary abilities.


Generating original ideas and creatively interpreting familiar material in new ways are essential to drama and to all life endeavors. It was Einstein who said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Risk-taking among friends and performing for an audience teach students to trust their ideas and abilities. Teamwork and self-confidence will benefit school, career, and life in general.
Theater enhances innate ability by fostering creativity in a group setting. This cooperative process includes discussing, negotiating, rehearsing, and performing together for the greatest benefit of all. Drama enhances verbal and nonverbal expression, improves voice projection, articulation of words and fluency of language, vastly increasing confidence and communication skills early in life.
Rehearsing, memorizing and performing words, movements and cues strengthen the memory like a muscle. Reading, interpreting, practicing, and performing develop a sustained focus of mind, body and voice. Listening and observation skills are developed through quick-thinking solutions discovered during improvisational games.
Most of all, drama is fun! It brings play, humor, and laughter to learning! Drama is a fun way to build the well-roundedness essential to success in


Middle School students express an instinctive human need -- to mimic, to project stories, and to create meaning through narrative and metaphor. We see this instinct expressed in children when they act out real or imagined characters and events and have evidence of theater-like rituals in some of the oldest human societies. Theater matters, in essence because we can’t help it -- it’s part of what makes us human.
Theater students model a kind of public dialogue that lies at the heart of democratic life, building skills for listening to different views and empathizing with the struggles of fellow humans. Middle School students learn what happens when conflicts don’t get resolved, and what happens when they do, and begin to develop the ability to imagine the outcomes of choices they may make in their own lives.
Making (and attending) theater contributes to education and literacy -- the condensed dialogue of theater requires sharp attention, quick mental shifts and nimble language skills. Middle School students learn about human motivation and psychology, and studies have shown that theater students do better in school. Participation adds to self-confidence and allows students to socialize in a productive and healthy way.
Watching two characters struggle over an issue or harmonize in resolving a conflict allows Middle School students to relate to similar struggles and successes in their own lives, leading to self-evaluation of their own choices and contemplation of the long-term benefits of wise decisions.


The High School Company focuses on finding and developing the extraordinary talents and abilities in our students in the fine arts. This process gives the student a better understanding regarding who they are and what they have to contribute to the world around them.
The High School Company works to establish an inviting and accepting community environment where differences are accepted. Support for each other in easy and difficult times is strongly encouraged.
The search for excellence within ourselves is a lifelong pursuit. Students are expected to work on improving self discipline, be respectful of peers and adults around them, and to work together to achieve great outcomes. In many ways we want the students of the High School program to strive to be the best they can be.
Students are encouraged to take appropriate risks, to move outside their own comfort zones to discover their gifts and talents while achieving the goals set out in the High School program.
Through self discovery and working within a positive community, students are able to make significant gains in the areas of confidence and self-image. They learn to stand up in front of a group and present themselves in a positive, dynamic way with the skills learned on stage.


In 2013, The Venue Theatre was created. Built as a 501c3 educational nonprofit organization, The Venue was created as a safe haven for Colorado's youth. We focus exclusively on the education of elementary, middle, and high school students. Since its conception, The Venue has grown to support a diverse group of students from more than 25 different schools in the greater Denver and Foothills area.

At The Venue, we strive to give young people the best theater education possible. For decades, each member of our team has devoted his or her energy to passionately teaching theater arts and their related skills. The Venue is more than just a 5O1c3 nonprofit theater—it's a family of committed parents, volunteers, and instructors all working toward one common goal, creating the best environment for children and young adults to become all that they can be.


Nelson Conway

Artistic Director, Director, Music Director, Founder
Nelson retired from a 25-year career teaching music and drama in 2007. He studied music under Dr. George Lynn at Loretto Heights College and Lynn Whitten at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He studied technical theater with Joseph Psuik, drama and musical theater under Richard Clark, Tom McNally and Jan Sullivan. Nelson started the choral and drama departments of Conifer High School in 1996 and has directed and produced countless shows. Nelson founded The Venue in 2013.

Lora Haimes

Executive Director
Lora is passionate about theatre eduction as she has seen first hand how it benefits not only the students, but parents and families as well. She also loves the collaborative nature of theatre and working with a wide range of people to make things happen. ​ Lora served as the Education Director at Stagedoor Theatre from 2005 through 2011. After that she owned her own business with a staff of 20, which she grew significantly, then sold in 2017. Lora is excited to be back in the theatre world and to be working with the Venue community.

Joni Havens

Director, Founder
Joni, a certified K-12 teacher, found her interest in theater while performing in elementary and high school productions. In college, she became a professional pantomime and circus aerialist, performing on stages across the U.S. and on television. She has directed over 30 community theater productions and founded a performing drama club in a Colorado high school. She loved performing but her heart's delight is in directing children's theater.​ Joni is a cofounder of The Venue.

Tyler Phillips

Director, Assistant Artistic Director
Tyler Phillips is an award-winning playwright, composer, director, and musician. Tyler moved to Colorado after working as a New York City based theatre director and session musician for the better part of a decade. He is the critically-acclaimed writer/ director of the 2013 production of Under The Greenwood Tree (Flea Theatre, NYC) and an award-winning composer, playwright, and poet. In 2010 he co-founded Phillstock Entertainment, a music and theatre production and management company focused on developing the original works of independent writers and performers in Brooklyn, NY. Tyler's work has been enjoyed at The Flea Theatre (NYC), 17 Frost (Brooklyn, NY), The Lucille Lortel Theatre (NYC), The Laurie Beechman Theatre (NYC), The Sundance Film Festival (Park City, UT), The Arkansas Rep (Little Rock, AR), StageDoor Theatre (Conifer, CO), The Bakery (Denver, CO), The Zach Scott Theatre Center (Austin, TX), The Magik Theatre (San Antonio, TX), The York Theatre (NYC), and others.

Jessica Erin Swanson

Choreographer, Director
Jessica Erin Swanson is an award-winning actress who performs across the Colorado Front Range. She has graced stages from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs bringing her to stages such as Ellie Caulkins Opera House and Denver Center for the Performing Arts. She has studied in dance for the majority of her life with companies such as Colorado Ballet and trains privately with former Rockettes. Some of Jessica’s favorite past professional credits include Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, Henrietta Leavitt in Silent Sky, Judy Bernly in 9 to 5, Maggie, Kristine & Val (u/s) in A Chorus Line. Even though she loves performing, she finds the most joy in working with children and sharing her love for the theatre to the next generation. She began teaching dance at age 13 and started directing and choreographing professionally at 17. She is also a proud alumni of the Venue and looks forward to continuing their mission.


Sandy Moorehead

Board President

Andra Denton


Bethany Van Beek


TJ Bartt

Member at Large

Bitsy Bernat

Member at Large

Paul Liffengren

Member at Large

Hallie Hannum

Student Board Representative

Alaska Jenkins

Student Board Representative

Justin Stephens

Student Board Representative


Rent our theatre or studio

From performances to conferences, recitals to celebrations, The Venue Theatre is the best place to host your event this season. With a seating capacity of over 100, there is more than enough room to spare. We are proud to offer our space to any member of the community for classes, services or events.​ Consider The Venue for your upcoming event or check on availability for weekly or monthly use. We are proud to offer competitive pricing and hosting if necessary. Interested? Contact our Executive Director, Lora Haimes (ed@thevenuetheatre.com), to learn more and to schedule your event.


27132 Main Street
Conifer, Colorado 80433



27132 Main Street
Conifer, Colorado 80433
Photo Credits: Jess Melton (unless otherwise noted)
Copyright 2020 The Venue Theatre