“Tooth of Crime” a Musical Riff on Fleeting Power and 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 bullets, 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.

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“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.”

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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.

Bozeman Actors Theatre Presents “The Realistic Joneses” by Will Eno

BOZEMAN, Mont., March 24, 2018—Audiences will hear one of the brightest voices in American theater as Bozeman Actors Theatre presents “The Realistic Joneses,” a play by Will Eno that The Guardian named 2014’s “Best Play on Broadway.” The local production opens April 19 at The Rialto in downtown Bozeman.

Eno, a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, has collected critical acclaim and the admiration of actors everywhere for his idiosyncratic ear for language and his dialogue steeped in a signature blend of wit and pathos. The New York Times has called Eno “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.”

“From the very first time I read this play, I was impressed by—no, more intrigued by—Eno's ability to write believable and heartfelt dialogue,” said director Joel Jahnke, well-known to audiences as both an actor (last appearing in “Jimmie and Pete” at The Ellen Theatre) and as the longtime artistic director of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks until his retirement in 2013.

“Eno has a way of gently infusing the way we all talk and communicate normally with the heightened sense that great dramatic writing requires,” Jahnke added. “This is a rare gift and what makes this play rise above most others.”

In “The Realistic Joneses,” Bob and Jennifer Jones (played by Mark Kuntz and Cara Wilder) meet their new neighbors, John and Pony Jones (played by Miles Duffey and Claire Barley), during a starlit backyard encounter in a town not unlike Bozeman. In the days that follow, the couples realize they have even more in common than their suburban neighborhood and their shared last names. As their relationships begin to irrevocably intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their imperfect realities as they wrestle with ponderous questions of mortality and intimacy—often with subtle humor.

“I’m fascinated with how real these characters are to me,” Jahnke said. “They seem from the outset to be people I know, my neighbors, my friends. They’re funny, touching, complicated and troubled, often in the same moment. Couple this kind of writing with a great cast and the result is a captivating evening in the theater.”

“The Realistic Joneses” is the fourth play in Bozeman Actors Theatre’s 2017-18 season and the first since “I Am My Own Wife” sold out all six shows at Verge Theater in February. Mark Kuntz last appeared in the company’s “Copenhagen” and “Fool for Love” to start the season. Cara Wilder, former artistic director and co-founder of the company, last performed for BAT in “Marjorie Prime” in 2017. Claire Barley appeared in BAT’s 2014 production of “The Language Archive,” as well as the 2016 staged reading of another Will Eno play, “Middletown,” in which Kuntz and Wilder also appeared. Miles Duffey, an actor for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks since 2011, most recently playing Happy in Death of a Salesman, is performing with Bozeman Actors Theatre for the first time.

Bozeman Actors Theatre will present “The Realistic Joneses” by Will Eno at The Rialto, 10 West Main St. in downtown Bozeman. Shows run Thursday through Saturday, April 19-21 and April 26-28, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $24 in advance at www.bozemanactorstheatre.org or $27 at the door.