Open Door Theatre: “Community Theater at its Best”

Kevin Brustuen

Several years ago Mary Orr left Topeka, Kansas, and moved to Bozeman.  She left behind 20 years of work in the Topeka theater community. Acting and helping produce live theater was her passion. Arriving in Bozeman on a cold winter day, she looked around and wondered where she could pick up that part of her life again. Orr arrived at just the right time: Open Door Theatre Company had just been founded only weeks before she moved to town, and the founders were actively looking for experienced people to help produce their first show entitled Play On!  

Founded in 2014 by a group of volunteers, Open Door was dedicated to the idea that live theater is an important art form that enhances community life, and that every interested member of the community should have a chance to participate. In its first three seasons, Open Door has produced eight productions, including Play On!, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Exit the Body, 12 Angry Men, Christmas Memory, Helium, Over the River and Through the Woods, Evening of One Acts, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Boys Next Door, and The Importance of Being Earnest. Volunteer community members, including Mary Orr, directed, produced, and acted in all the roles of each of these productions, fulfilling Open Door’s mission to produce all-inclusive community theater.

The goal and desire of Open Door is to provide entry-level theatrical opportunities to community members. Feeling that acting is important, the founders have made every effort to include anyone who wishes to try their hand at acting. This harkens back to the earliest days of Montana’s history, when gold miners, hungry for entertainment, would get together and produce their own plays for their fellow miners.  

Open Door is producing seven performances of their next play, The Unexpected Guest, a mystery by Agatha Christie. Opening on March 15th at Kaleidoscope Theatre, The Unexpected Guest continues on March 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, and closes on the 24th of March.  This play is directed by Peggy Jensen.
Agatha Christie plays are very popular across the world. Christie’s play The Mousetrap is the world’s longest running play; it opened on London’s West End in 1952 (the same year Queen Elizabeth was crowned) and has never stopped, even up to the current day. Many other plays exist which have been adapted from Agatha Christie novels, including The Unexpected Guest. 

It is intriguing to consider how well the genre of “mystery” translates to the theater; audiences quickly become involved in the who-done-it allure of this style of play. Open Door’s emphasis on the inclusivity of theater parallels the nearly universal appeal of readers and audience members who try to walk along with the detective, solving the mystery and bringing about their own kind of justice. Even the formulaic aspect of Agatha Christie’s mysteries do not deter enthusiastic audiences from attending. In fact, the formula for a Christie mystery, like the formula for great community theater, is bound to please.

Open Door Theatre is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. For tickets and more information for Open Door’s upcoming production of Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest, or simply to get more information about Open Door, please see Open Door’s website at   

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