MAT sets comedy season from ‘The Vorbit Incident’ to ‘Wizard of Oz’

MAT sets comedy season from ‘The Vorbit Incident’ to ‘Wizard of Oz’

Jay Pyette

September 20, 2019, by Rachel Jamieson, Havre Daily News

Montana Actors’ Theatre announced its 2019-2020 season during its Death by Chocolate fundraiser last Saturday.

“Every show this season is a comedy,” Artistic Director of MAT Grant Olson said in an interview this week.

Kicking off the season will be “The Vorbit Incident” by Missoula playwright Jay Kettering, directed by MAT Marketing Director Andi Daniel.

The MAT production will run for two weeks starting Thursday, Oct. 10, through Saturday, Oct. 12 and the following Thursday, Oct. 17,  to Saturday, Oct. 19.

Rehearsal started in August.

Olson said “The Vorbit” is more of a dark comedy about the end of the world, based out of Great Falls.

“It’s funny and dark, but it is more of an adult show,” Olson said. “This is an exciting one for us because it’s a new play.”

Following “The Vorbit,” the 24-hour play festival begins Saturday, November 16.

“This one is great fun,” Olson said.

He added that MAT started this festival two years ago in Havre.

The evening of Friday, Nov. 15, names will be drawn for actors to be assigned to work with directors, then the director and the acting team to be assigned to a playwright, then a headline is chosen from newspapers and the playwrights have to use this featured dialogue in the show.

After these tasks are completed the playwright must come up with a script in 12 hours, Olson said. By 8 a.m. the next morning, the script must then be handed off to the director, the director has about an hour to look at the script, then the director starts rehearsing with the actors followed by shows that evening with each group performing.

Olson added that the plays are about 10 to 20 minutes long, depending on how much they write.

“Everybody is pumped up on coffee and excited and only a little bit of rehearsal time, but the rawness creates some really amazing theater,” he said. “It’s a really fun show to watch.”

Next in December is the MAT’s tradition of a Christmas panto show with this year’s production based on the fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk,” directed by Olson.

Olson said when he was studying theater in London, where he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in theater, pantos were performed at Christmas time and he thought it was a good idea to try here in Havre.

“(Pantos) are family-friendly. They are basically fractured fairy tales, which are fairy tales that everyone knows, but that are set wonky and things go awry, with lots of audience participation,” he said. “It’s definitely for kids, but it has a lot of things for adults, too.”

Starting the 2020 year toward the end of January, MAT will produce “One Man, Two Guvnors” which will be directed by Audrey Barger.

“This is the funniest play I have ever seen in my life,” he said.

MAT will produce “One Man, two Guvnors” the last two weekends of January into the first week of February.

“It is a very British farce, but it is based from a comedia tradition that is from a ‘Servant of Two Masters’ Italian play,” Olson added. “It is transposed to Britain in the ’60s with all the mod, which is a lot of fun. We will have a skiffle band playing as a live band playing in the show.”

Skiffle is a musical genre with jazz, blues and American folk music influences commonly using improvised instruments such as jugs, washboards and kazoos along with more traditional instruments that started in the U.S. about the turn of the last century. It was revived in Britain in the 1950s and is credited with influencing or even launching many bands and artists including the Beatles.

“Then in February, this is the last time I’m going to mention it publicly because we are going to have a Speakeasy,” Olson said. “We are not going to advertise for it which means you have to ask some people to know what is going on.”

He added that the Speakeasy is going to be more of an event at a secret location with drinks, appetizers and entertainment.

It is a different kind of event to go out to that will only be one night, he said.

After the Speakeasy, the ABBA musical “Mamma Mia” will be showcased and directed by Angie Pratt.

“It’s insanely popular and one of the most-produced shows in America, for good reason you feel good at the end of it,” he said.

He added that it will be running in the dead of Montana winter to lift some spirits. The musical will be taking place the third weekend in March.

“When we announced at Death by Chocolate there was cheering and applause, so I guess we picked the right show,” Olson said, laughing.

Not long after “Mamma Mia,” MAT is putting on their dinner theater in April.

Olson said the dinner theater will start at The Eagles clubs in Havre and Chinook then tour to Shelby and Lewistown.

He added that he hopes they are able to go to Medicine Hat, Alberta and they are looking for other venues to expand it.

“Touring is where we are really looking for to expanding Montana Actors’ Theatre and we have decided to expand Rachel Dean’s play ‘Ticked Off,'” he said.

He said the play is based off a tick in Texas called the Lone Star Tick and if people get bit by it people become allergic to meat. The play follows a man who gets bittem by this tick and begins dating a woman who is a carnivore with a theme around them as star-crossed lovers.

“It’s just funny, great word play, hilarious set up, and it’s just crazy that there is a tick that does this,” Olson said.

After the tour, MAT will be performing “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” based on the book by Roald Dahl.

“We are going to have fun with that and we are going to change the MAT theater into Wonka Land,” he said. “We are going for more a wholy immersive experience when you come into the space.”

He added that the book is different than the film and the play will be drawn more from the book in similarity than either of the films.

He said MAT is going to be having fun with the casting as well, doing non-traditional casting.

“We want people to have an experience with ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ that is unique to our production of it,” Olson said. “We are going to be doing a better job of being live here in the theater and making and creating a world of pure imagination that is from the book.”

He said events also will be go going on where people can meet Willy Wonka, see Wonka Land and see the river of chocolate.

Then, in June, MAT is putting on their Spring into the Past Festival, a historically inspired renaissance fair.

Montana Actors’ Theatre Artistic Director Grant Olson, dressed as The Fourth Doctor of “Doctor Who,” talks Saturday during MAT’s annual Death by Chocolate.

The acting troupe held its first such event this spring, although the weather did not cooperate well.

“We are hoping to have more vendors and hoping to expand locations that suit what we are going to do. For example, there will be lots of live entertainment including some full-length plays and we’ll announce those as we get closer,” he said. “It is kind of going to be a surprise.”

He added that they are going for historically themed and we want it to be just a big fun event.

After holding its KidsMAT summer camps, the troupe will end the season with its youth theater production of “The Wizard of Oz” in August, directed by MAT’s summer interns.

Olson said for 2020, all the children’s camps and the youth show will be themed around the “Wizard of Oz.”

“It will be a ‘Wizard of Oz’ summer,” he said.

Then the troupe will start up again for the next season in September.

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