Howl! A Montana Love Story

Kevin Brustuen

In 1995, wolves were successfully reintroduced into the Yellowstone National Park region after an absence of 70 years. Before long, the wolves formed into several viable packs, expanding their ranges to create their own territories. Introducing wolves back into the Yellowstone ecosystem was not without controversy, however. The reintroduction of any species to an ecosystem has always been fraught with disagreement, but few, if any, cause as much controversy as the reintroduction of wolves to their former habitat.

Playwright Allyson Adams now brings her play Howl! A Montana Love Story, inspired by the true story of Wolf 39, to the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center (WMPAC) on November 15 and 16 for its world premiere. Wolf 39, a beautiful white female wolf, was an original member of the Druid wolf pack in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park in 1997. For a brief period, Wolf 39 was the alpha female in the Druid pack, but eventually her own daughter – Wolf 40—drove her from the pack and Wolf 39 went on a multi-year solo meander out of the park, traveling north of Red Lodge, through the Crazy Mountains to Livingston, down through the Absaroka Mountains, and up and down the Yellowstone River between Livingston and Gardiner.

Howl tells the story of an unlikely romance between a young woman who is fascinated with wolves and a rancher who strongly opposes the re-introduction of wolves to the Yellowstone ecosystem. Imagining the play occurring somewhere in the Paradise Valley, Howl explores the wolf reintroduction controversy through the lens of an unlikely romance between this rancher and the young woman who loves wolves. Despite the play being a romance, the story raises one’s awareness of the difficulties ranchers face as they try to make a living in a difficult—but beautiful— place to raise livestock, complicated with the reintroduction of a large predator species. But it also reveals the inexplicable love, yearning, and fascination we as humans often feel towards majestic wild animals, be it bears, bison, or wolves.


Formerly a drama teacher in Ennis, Montana, Allyson Adams has moved on to playwrighting. Adams has written and produced over 30 plays including Rusalka Revenge, 26 Stabs, Hand of Me, An Addict Speaks in addition to Howl, winning Best Short Screenplay and Stage Play awards. Howl most recently won the Cannes Screenplay Contest in the Stage Play category.

Cara Wilder, director of Howl, has acted and directed on southwestern Montana stages for a number of years. She has most recently been seen on stage in Bozeman Actors Theatre’s productions of A Doll’s House Part 2 and The Realistic Joneses. Wilder appreciates the opportunity to direct in the WMPAC, as she feels the space gives her the room to explore interesting set designs. The main scenes of Howl are set in a bar, inside a cabin, in a wolf biologist’s office, and several outdoor settings; WMPAC’s large stage and excellent lighting make this space a director’s dream for creating these sets.

Howl’s cast calls for twelve actors, all part of the Big Sky Community Theater organization. Kali Armstrong plays Carly, a young woman haunted by dreams of a white wolf. Her boyfriend Quinn, played by Big Sky resident Josh Allen, is a rancher who considers the reintroduction of wolves into this ecosystem as a threat to his ranching operation. The play calls for roles which include a wolf biologist, an East Coast newspaper reporter, and Wolf 39. Jennifer Waters (dancing as Wolf 39), Stephanie Kissell (Stella in last year’s Streetcar Named Desire production), Vanessa Wilson, Julie Towle, Jeremy Harder, Jason Frounfelker, Tesha Keller, and Maggie Luchini round out the cast. Howl features original music by George Winston, a live band featuring Kali Armstrong on vocals, and modern dance choreography by Jennifer Waters as the White Wolf.

Immediately following the November 16th performance, Roger Lang, a wolf-loving rancher who empathizes with both sides, playwright Allyson Adams, director Cara Wilder, Amber Rose Mason actress and real cowgirl, and the cast members will be on a talk-back panel, taking questions from the audience about the play, its themes, and the controversies.

 

Howl! A Montana Love Story will be performed at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center on November 15 at 7:00 pm, and November 16 at 5 pm. For tickets and more information, please visit https://warrenmillerpac.org/ or call 406.995.6345

The Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky opened in March of 2013, with a mission to bring creative vision to the stage in Big Sky, through world-class acts, local performers, and community inspiration. WMPAC is located on the south edge of Big Sky, right off Highway 191. 

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