“A Moon for the Misbegotten” Shines on the Emerson Stage

BOZEMAN, Mont., January 21, 2019—The work of Eugene O’Neill, arguably the greatest American playwright of all time, is about to light up the stage in Bozeman. But the performance history of “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” O’Neill’s last play, was anything but straightforward on its way here.

Bozeman Actors Theatre will present the classic American drama at the Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture beginning February 21.

O’Neill completed the play in 1943, seven years after he won the Nobel Prize in Literature and before illness forced him to stop writing. The original production in 1947, staged in Columbus, Ohio, was poorly done and a commercial flop, and O’Neill never saw it produced on Broadway before his death in 1953.

A couple of attempts in New York during the next 20 years never gained traction, and it wasn’t until a revival on Broadway in 1973, starring Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards, that the play finally achieved its reputation as a masterpiece of the American theater. The New York Times proclaimed it “one of the great plays of the 20th century.”

Now in its 10th season, Bozeman Actors Theatre thinks the time is right—and “Moon” the ideal play—to present O’Neill to its audience for the first time, said director Mark Kuntz.

During the play, set over two days at a Connecticut farmhouse in 1923, a crossroads of fate forever alters three lives: Josie Hogan (played by Kari Doll), a domineering Irishwoman with a quick tongue and a ruined reputation; her conniving tenant farmer father, Phil (Mike Hesford); and their landlord, James Tyrone (Daniel Erickson), a washed-up actor and lost soul haunted by the ghosts of his past.

“Eugene O’Neill is as big as it gets in the American theater,” Kuntz said. “We really wanted to accept the challenge of staging one of his monumental plays, and it’s a work with so many rewards for the artists and the audience, too. In rehearsal we’ve really explored the great depths of this play and figured out all this can be.”

Kuntz assembled what he calls “the ideal cast” of BAT veterans Kari Doll, Daniel Erickson, Colton Swibold, and Richard Dunbar, along with newcomer Mike Hesford from Boulder, Mont. One pleasant surprise for the actors has been the humor in the play that complements its well-known serious and tragic side. “This Irish-American father and daughter are a force to be reckoned with,” Kuntz said. “Audiences are going to love those lighthearted moments.”

“A Moon for the Misbegotten” is the third play in Bozeman Actors Theatre’s 2018-19 season, dedicated to its late co-founder Dee Dee Van Zyl, who passed away last year. Shows in the Crawford Theater at the Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture, 111 South Grand Ave., will run February 21, 22, 23, 28 and March 1, 2 beginning promptly at 7 p.m. All ages are welcome, but parental guidance is suggested for some adult situations. Tickets are $20 for general admission or $10 for students and are available in advance at www.bozemanactorstheatre.org/tickets or at the door.


“Tooth of Crime” a Musical Riff on Fame

BOZEMAN, Mont., October 24, 2018—Sam Shepard, the great playwright who passed away in 2017, built a career as the voice of the lonely American West. But the haunted landscape in Tooth of Crime, the next play presented this season by Bozeman Actors Theatre, opening November 23, is like no other he ever created.

This America has gone off the rails long ago. What’s left is a poetic cross of the traditional Western film, complete with its high-noon gunfighter showdown, and a nihilistic Sex Pistols concert. Music and violent verse fly like shards of steel, and no one is left unscathed.

“This really is a unique play in American drama,” said Gordon Carpenter, artistic director for Bozeman Actors Theatre and director of the play. “The language and imagery are so different that it’s like Shakespeare for audiences—a little challenging at first, but slowly the meaning washes over you and you’re hit with the full power of the story.”

That story, told over several musical numbers and intense bursts of dialogue, is a thrilling rock-and-roll epic of power and fame, Carpenter said. In a celebrity-obsessed America, an aging rock idol named Hoss, played by Mark Kuntz, and his ragtag entourage struggle desperately to stay on top with challengers at every turn. When an upstart rival known as Crow, played by Tonya Andrews, comes on the scene breaking all the rules, only one can emerge the victor in a duel to the death—a duel where words and music have become the weapons of choice.

“Shepard is really unsparing in his view here that pursuit of fame will haunt you and ultimately destroy you,” said Carpenter, who also directed Shepard’s Fool for Love for BAT last season.

Shepard wrote the play in 1972 but revised it for a complete reboot that premiered in Greenwich Village in 1996. That version, featuring a score by T Bone Burnett, will be performed live in the BAT production by The Keepers, a rock band under the musical direction of Lee Dickerson. The cast of BAT veterans includes Kuntz (The Realistic Joneses), Andrews (Copenhagen), Will Dickerson (Fool for Love), Sydney Madill (Life of Galileo), and Torie Laher (Fool for Love).

Tooth of Crime is the second play in Bozeman Actors Theatre’s 2018-19 season, its 10th, dedicated to its late co-founder Dee Dee Van Zyl, who passed away earlier this year. Shows in the Eagles Club and Ballroom, 316 E. Main St., will run November 23, 24, 30 and December 1, 7, 8 beginning promptly at 7:30 p.m. All ages are welcome, but parental guidance is suggested (profanity, drug use, and stage violence). Tickets are $20 for general admission or $10 for students (with ID) and are available in advance at www.bozemanactorstheatre.org/tickets or at the door.


“Life of Galileo” an Epic Theater Battle: Science and Reason vs. Fear

BOZEMAN, Mont., September 24, 2018—Just 18 months ago in Bozeman, hundreds of people spent a sunny afternoon walking across town as part of the March for Science, billed as an event to “encourage the free exchange of scientific knowledge.”

Among the crowd, one young woman held up an immaculately printed sign that read, “Facts are stubborn things.”

Galileo Low-Res for Web.jpg

In “Life of Galileo,” the 20th-century masterpiece by playwright Bertolt Brecht, the famous Renaissance scientist is obsessed with a view of the heavens by telescope—the first ever—and what it means for the 2,000-year-old concept of the universe with the Earth at its center. Galileo believes everyone, including the all-powerful Church, will understand that facts are facts.

“I believe in the human race,” Galileo says. “If anybody were to drop a stone and tell them that it didn’t fall, do you think they would keep quiet? The evidence of your own eyes is a very seductive thing. Sooner or later everyone must succumb to it.”

Not in Galileo’s lifetime.

In the 400 years since the Church silenced Galileo, it’s clear that science, religion, and politics are still grappling with questions that are far from resolved in the eyes of many, said Gordon Carpenter, director of “Life of Galileo” for Bozeman Actors Theatre. The company’s production of the play opens at the Museum of the Rockies on Friday, October 12.

Whether it be climate change, evolution, vaccinations, or even the shape of the planet amid a resurgence of flat Earth societies, scientific evidence and the “sooner or later” acceptance that Galileo expects haven’t completely embraced in our society, Carpenter said.

And yet, facts are stubborn things.

“Brecht first wrote this play as a reaction to Nazi oppression in his native Germany, and then revised it during the hysteria of the Red Scare in America,” Carpenter said. “Now look where we are today, when black is white and up is down and fear of the truth is rampant. We’re holding marches for science. Even 80 years after Brecht first wrote it, this play is still so relevant to our own time. It won’t go away.”

It’s no coincidence that BAT will stage the play in a museum dedicated to science, Carpenter said. And to further promote the exchange of ideas, on-stage conversations with Montana State University scholars will follow each performance. “We hope to raise questions and create discussions after the audience leaves the theater,” he added. “Why did these people think this way, and how have things changed or not changed?”

Over the course of the play’s 14 artfully structured scenes, an already famous Galileo engages in a brutal struggle for freedom from authoritarian dogma. Unable to resist an appetite for scientific investigation, yet afraid of the Church’s grave threats, Galileo publicly recants but continues to work in secrecy. In the BAT production, a cast of seven plays more than a dozen characters, each espousing arguments with overtones of life or death, heaven or hell.

This particular presentation of the play in the Museum of the Rockies, with a multimedia display of sight and sound and unique casting, would’ve pleased Brecht himself, said Gretchen Minton of MSU’s Department of English. Minton, the production’s dramaturg, explained that Brecht was a founder of the “epic theater” movement in which a play strives not for realism in story, set, and props, but instead presents loosely connected scenes of argumentation and analysis.

“Brecht loved to think dialectically, so what we get in this play is a series of binaries,” Minton said. “Science vs. religion, reason vs. emotion, personal vs. political motivations, theory vs. practice, the state vs. the individual. We have to consider hard questions about these opposing forces, but there certainly aren’t any easy answers.”

Except, perhaps, for the stubborn fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun. “I think just about everyone in the audience can finally accept that one,” she added.

“Life of Galileo” is the first play in Bozeman Actors Theatre’s 2018-19 season, its 10th, dedicated to its late co-founder Dee Dee Van Zyl, who passed away earlier this year. The play features actors Aaron Schuerr, Alex Miller, Colton Swibold, Emily Jones, Hugh Burroughs, Kalen Watson, and Sydney Madill. Shows in the Hager Auditorium at the Museum of the Rockies will run October 12-14 and 19-21, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $20 for general admission or $10 for students (with ID) and are available in advance at www.bozemanactorstheatre.org/tickets or at the door.