Montana Actors’ Theatre troupe sets up strong season

Montana Actors’ Theatre troupe sets up strong season

Jay Pyette

August 29, 2009, by Joe Nickell, Missoulian

When Montana Actors’ Theatre took over management of the Crystal Theatre in June of this year, the small Havre-based company made big promises for its new Missoula venture.

“Our goal is to make it so that it’s not a question of whether there is something going on, but rather: What’s going on there?” said Grant Olson, vice president of MAT, in an interview shortly after his company took over booking and management of the 90-seat theater.

This week, Olson made good on that promise, announcing a season of theater presented by MAT and co-resident theater company Montana Rep Missoula that will keep the Crystal hopping every week until at least the beginning of next summer.

“We’ve got something in the theater Wednesday through Saturday pretty much every week,” said Olson. “It’s a lot of theatre, with some other events to kind of round things out.”

A lot of theater, indeed. Montana Actors’ Theatre alone plans to present nine separate productions at the Crystal (plus one at the Wilma) over the coming months, beginning with next week’s opening of “Life x 3,” by Yasmina Reza. For its part, Montana Rep Missoula plans four productions of plays under a seasonlong theme of “A Celebration of Workers.” Most productions by both companies will run for two weeks each.

“We’ve really worked to create complementary seasons so that the work of our separate companies blends together well,” said Olson of his relationship with Montana Rep Missoula. “And then we’ve tried to fill in around that.”

The filler, in this case, sounds as intriguing and fresh as some of the plays. First up, Olson’s company will debut a periodic series of cabaret nights at the Crystal next Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 2-3. Those events, which will roughly follow the form of old-time cabaret events, will feature live musicians, dancers and actors performing thematically linked bits in a relaxed atmosphere.

“Being cabaret, we certainly will push the innuendo, but keep it where people can enjoy it without being offended,” said Olson, describing the event as “PG-16 or -17.”

“It’s really playful, with some music and an emcee who banters with the audience and some live piano,” said Olson. “I think it’ll be a fun new thing for us to try out.”

Another, even more open-ended event will debut next Friday, Sept. 4. Dubbed “No Shame Theatre,” the event was the brainchild of University of Montana professor Jere Hodgin, who helped produce a similar series in Virginia before moving to Missoula.

“The deal is, you get five minutes on stage, you can’t hurt yourself or the audience or the theater; and those are the only rules,” said Olson. “It’s really open-ended, although I’d say it’s more geared toward theater than toward music or other types of things. Our goal is to make a great place for people who have a monologue they want to try out, or a five-minute scene; they can have scripts in hand or memorized; they can juggle poodles. I think it’ll be a fun thing to do on a regular basis.”

If all goes well next Friday, Olson aims to host “No Shame Theatre” events every First Friday at 10 p.m., after downtown galleries have closed their doors for the night.

MAT’s season of full-scale theater productions begins on Saturday, Sept. 5, with the opening of “Life X 3.” The remainder of the company’s season includes:

– The world premiere of “Good Clean Fun” by the company’s new resident playwright, Robert Caisley (opening Oct. 14);

– “Rosencrantz And Guildenstern are Dead” by Tom Stoppard (Dec. 2, in conjunction with the University of Montana’s production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”);

– Two plays – “SantaLand Diaries” and “Seasons Greetings” – by David Sedaris (mid-December);

– Patrick Marber’s “Closer” (Jan. 20);

– “Kissing” by Robert Caisley (Feb. 10);

– An undetermined new play directed by Bernadette Sweeney (March 10);

– Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” (April 21).

If that weren’t enough, the company just firmed up plans to present a fully staged musical production of “The Rocky Horror Show” on the stage of the Wilma Theatre on Oct. 30-31, with performances both nights at 8 p.m. and again at midnight.

“I’ve been waiting and waiting to do this; I think it’s going to be a really great thing for us as a company, and a ton of fun for everybody,” said Olson. “It’s going to be a transsexual extravaganza with all the classic audience interactions.”

Mixed in with all of this will be Montana Rep Missoula’s own series of productions, which kicks off Sept. 22 with Clifford Odets’ classic ode to the workingman, “Waiting for Lefty.” That’ll be followed by “Fully Committed” by Becky Mode (Nov. 10), David Mamet’s classic “Glen Garry Glen Ross” (Feb. 23), and a night of three one-act plays written by Roger Hedden, James McLure, and Ron Fitzgerald.

For more information on events coming up at the Crystal Theatre, visit

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