Bozeman’s 2019-2020 Theater Season

Kevin Brustuen

Bozeman is growing quickly, and the Bozeman-area theater scene is growing dramatically (pun intended) as well. As recently as ten years ago, people would scan bulletin boards, magazines and newspapers eagerly looking for things to do each weekend: concerts, events, and live theater productions. A live theater production was an event that people would eagerly look forward to, as it might be awhile before another performance was offered. 

Today, Bozemanites still eagerly embrace plays, but there is no paucity of live theater; in fact, there is so much live theater available that it’s difficult to decide which shows you can see and which you have to let go because there is not enough time to see everything. In that spirit, it might be helpful to give a brief overview of some productions that will be offered in the Bozeman area by some of the local acting companies and theaters. 

Park County Theatre Guild, founded in 1964, has been the acting company for The Blue Slipper Theatre in Livingston, providing plays since 1965.

The Blue Slipper presents Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, opening on August 16 and running until September 1, 2019. Blue Slipper is using Kate Hamill’s adaptation of this famous Austen play. Hamill is known for modern adaptations of older works and does not disappoint with this post-modern (and very successful) version.

Please refer to the Blue Slipper website for updated information about Blue Slipper’s 2019-2020 season.

Bozeman Actors Theatre (BAT) was founded in 2008 and incorporated as a Non-Profit 501(c)(3) in 2014. They produce plays in various locations with a mission of producing thought-provoking professional theater, both classic and contemporary.

Bozeman Actors Theatre opens its 2019-2020 season with one of Henrik Ibsen’s classic plays, Enemy of the People, running October 10-20, 2019. Themes of morality, principles, greed, hypocrisy, science-doubting, and power make this a compelling play. It is a co-production with Montana State University staged at the Hager Auditorium at the Museum of the Rockies, offering interactions between the crossroads of the town and the university communities.

February 7-16, 2020, BAT offers a rare “film noir” style play, Wait Until Dark, at the Emerson’s Crawford Theatre. Wait Until Dark, written by Frederick Knott, is a complex, psychological, and unpredictable thriller first performed on Broadway in 1966 to wide acclaim.
BAT’s third play of the season, Polaroid Stories, will be performed at The Ellen Theater from April 9-18, 2020. Polaroid Stories, a loose adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, uses a series of personal stories from modern-day homeless teens interwoven with ancient myths to tell a story of the streets with themes of love, politics, identity, violence, storytelling, and death.

This Random World, written by Steven Dietz, also shows at the Emerson from June 18-27, 2020. The inevitability of encounter is the main theme of Random World, as it asks the question of how often we travel parallel paths through the world without noticing others, or even that we are passing through life itself.

Intermountain Opera became the first Montana-based opera company in the state with the performance of Verdi’s La Traviata in the spring of 1979. Since then, they have grown to produce two operas and one musical each year, bringing in nationally acclaimed leads to supplement local artists in their shows.

Intermountain Opera opens its season with an opera called simply, 27, performed on October 11 and 13, two nights only, at the Willson Auditorium. In a sense, 27 gives you a voyeur’s view into Gertrude Stein’s salon at 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris, looking into the lives of Matisse, Picasso, and other great artists in this performance composed by Ricky Ian Gordon.

From February 7-16, Intermountain Opera offers the musical Kiss Me Kate at The Ellen Theater. Written by Bella and Samuel Spewack with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, Kate is the story of the production of a musical version of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and the conflict on and off-stage between the show’s director, producer, and his leading lady, as they produce Shrew. 

The Marriage of Figaro is a comic opera, performed at the Willson Auditorium on April 24 and 26. Figaro is a comic look at scheming, love, and infidelity, accompanied with the joyful music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks was founded in 1973 with the mission of bringing Shakespeare and other classic productions to underserved areas of Montana. They offer summer tours, school performances and workshops in high schools and elementary schools across rural Montana and four surrounding states, performing over 200 days each year.

Romeo and Juliet will be performed at the Emerson twice. First at the annual “Elise Event” on Saturday, November 2 as a fundraiser to support Shakespeare in the Schools. Three weeks later a free public performance of Romeo and Juliet is scheduled for Saturday, November 23, also at the Emerson.

Cyrano de Bergerac, written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand, premiers at the Ellen Theater on Thursday, March 19 with an official opening night of Friday, March 20, and runs Friday, Saturday, and Sundays through March 29. With wit, wordplay and rousing passion, Cyrano investigates unrequited love, courage, and honor. Cyrano is the featured Montana Shakespeare in the Parks Winter 2020 event. 

Open Door Community Theatre was founded in 2014 to provide Bozeman citizens the opportunity to become involved in theater. As a community theater, Open Door provides several performances each year. Please refer to its website for more information about Open Door’s season as it becomes available.

Montana Theatre Works produces plays for The Ellen Theater, which was reopened in 2008 by John Ludin. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the construction of The Ellen Theater itself.

In October 2019, The Ellen offers an original comedy, Beyond a Reasonable Chance, subtitled A One-woman Show (Sort of), written by local playwright John Ludin. Reasonable Chance talks about decisions that we make in life, about taking risks, along with the dangers and rewards associated with veering off one’s planned path.

In December 2019, The Ellen presents A Christmas Carol in an adaptation written by playwright Jerry Patch, starring Joel Jahnke as Ebenezer Scrooge. Many people in Bozeman know Joel Jahnke not only for his wonderful legacy at Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, but also for his portrayal in previous productions as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. This will be Jahnke’s last time in this role, and it will be a part of The Ellen’s 100th anniversary celebration. A Christmas Carol is the show with which The Ellen Theater re-opened in 2008 and will be a fitting tribute to building’s 100th anniversary.

The Ellen also produces a musical each summer. A performance run of Damn Yankees goes from July 26 through August 11, to close out their 2019 season.

The Ellen also hosts three productions from other Bozeman performing arts groups listed in this article: Kiss Me Kate by Intermountain Opera, Shakespeare in the Park’s production of Cyrano, and Polaroid Stories by Bozeman Actors Theatre.

The Verge Theater celebrates its 25th season this year. In addition to offering cutting edge plays and Improv theater, the Verge also teaches theater classes for kids, teens and adults.

The Verge opens with the award-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime on October 18 through November 2, 2019. Curious Incident is a mystery novel by British writer Mark Haddon about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way.

During December 12-21, 2019, Verge produces Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf: A Parody, written by Tim Sniffen, a satirical mash-up of Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Our Town, all famous plays of American drama. This play explores what happens when the most recognizable characters from some of the greatest American plays find themselves sharing the same stage.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson wrote The Revolutionists, showing from January 10-25, 2020, a story of four women who lose their heads in an irreverent comedy set during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Themes include violence and legacy, art and activism, feminism and terrorism, compatriots and chosen sisters, and how we go about changing the world.

Matilda The Musical, runs from April 3-18, 2020. Matilda, a Tony Award-winning play based on a book written by Roald Dahl, is the inspiring story of a girl with the power of imagination who dreams of a better life.

The cult classic The Rocky Horror Show makes its annual appearance on April 24-25, 2020. The eerie mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a transvestite scientist and his houseful of wild characters, participate with the audience in a collaborative production of audience props, in a deliberately kitschy rock ‘n’ roll sci-fi gothic musical.

Big, Scary Animals runs from June 5-20, 2020, and is the last show of Verge’s season. Matt Lyle wrote this play to explore shifting generational beliefs. What begins as polite dinner conversation between an older white couple and their gay, multi-ethnic neighbors, becomes an out of control collision of race, sex, guns, and sports.   

For more information about any of these plays and performances, please contact the acting companies here:

Blue Slipper:
Bozeman Actors Theatre:
Intermountain Opera:
Montana Shakespeare in the Parks:
Open Door:
The Ellen:
The Verge:

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