by Stephen Real, Havre Daily News, October 12, 2018
Montana Actors’ Theatre players and audience members got a special treat this past weekend when Hollywood star Ed Asner took the stage to play God in “God Help Us” at the Little Theatre in Montana State University-Northern’s Cowan Hall.
The other two main stars that night were Jay Pyette and Kate Hagen.
Pyette has a master’s degree in theater arts from the University of Oregon and is the founder and artistic director for MAT and has an extensive history in education and performance of theater. Pyette has been involved with MAT for 26 years.
Hagen said she participates in MAT for fun and was originally hesitant to do so because she was shy, but has now been a part of the local acting troupe for five years.
Pyette and Hagen played the roles of political pundits who have opposite views, but were at one point romantically involved.
God, played by Asner, then intervenes because he is displeased with the way the world is.
Hagen and Pyette said they both enjoyed their time on the stage with Asner.
“I don’t want to say it was intimidating, but there was definitely a level of nervousness there that we don’t usually get,” Pyette said. “It was dispelled very quickly.
“Ed was very easy to work with,” Hagen added. “You can just tell his energy just bumps up when there’s more audience energy.”
Pyette said that it was also a privilege to be under the direction of Mitch Levine. Levine has screenwriting and directing credits to his name as well.
“It is important to note that Mitch Levine is an A-list director and we got to work with him for two full days,” Pyette said.
However, the pair did not receive any direction from Asner himself despite the time spent together.
“Sarcastic comments. He’s got a wicked sense of humor and he’s very sharp,” Pyette said. “The one thing we always have to keep in mind is that he’s been acting for 60-some years. He knows everything about it.”
There was one thing that Pyette said he was able to take away from his time with Asner.
“He’s really enjoying what he’s doing right now and that just gives me such heart because I love it and he can do it forever,” Pyette said.
He said being able to perform “God Help Us” with Asner has provided a boost to MAT. Every show was packed and tickets sold out within a week, he added.
“Just the fact that these guys came here and felt like the show was important enough to bring it wherever they could is a great sign about the message,” said Pyette.
Hagen agreed the message of the play was important and was something she enjoyed about being able to perform “God Help Us”.
“Very timely,” Hagen said. “I think it comes down to, everybody’s got their opinion we just need to listen a little bit more.”
While the thrill of having a celebrity in Havre was short-lived, Pyette said it has helped MAT reaffirm its for what it hopes to achieve.
“This was a really good process for us because the director was very meticulous,” Pyette said. “That’s something that we always need to keep in mind. We can’t ever settle for, ‘Oh, it’s good enough.’ We need to make sure our shows are professional and quality.”