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Bozeman Actors Theatre hopes new nonprofit status will lead to new performance space

By Rachel Hergett, Get Out! Editor

Posted: Friday, October 10, 2014 12:00 am

Before a rehearsal in her garage south of Bozeman last week, actress Dee Dee Van Zyl noted the theater company responsible for recent productions such as “God of Carnage” at the Verge Theater and “August: Osage County” at the Ellen Theatre may as well be called “The Drifters,” due to a lack of space to call their own.

The company’s name, prior to this spring, was the Actors Theatre of Montana, which was often confused with the Montana Actors’ Theatre, based in Great Falls and Havre. This became an issue while applying for non-profit status. So, the group chose a new name: Bozeman Actors Theatre.

“We located ourselves,” Van Zyl said. “We gave ourselves a home right there.”

Still, the company’s third play in three years, “The Language Archive” by Julia Cho opening Wednesday, Oct. 15, will be in yet another new space, this time the Black Box Theater on the Montana State University campus.

Where Actors Theatre of Montana was a loose group of professional and semi-professional actors, The Bozeman Actors Theatre is a newly created nonprofit organization with a board of directors and a vision for the future. The two-year goal includes a space to call home, though they are willing to share with other theatrical organizations.

“We definitely feel that Bozeman is in need of another performance space,” Managing Director Cara Wilder said.

Ideally, the space would be 150 to 200 seats, akin to the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky. A capital campaign is in the works and consultations with developers, realtors and architects have begun.

“Now we just need a multi-millionaire ski benefactor,” Wilder said.
Talks to become a nonprofit organization began within the company last year after the success of
“August: Osage County.”

“The core of us came to the realization what we wanted to do was being validated by the community,” said board member Daniel Erickson, an actor who moved back to Bozeman to pursue the idea of art for art’s sake.

The production of “August: Osage County” marked a turning point, where founding members realized the theater needed to take the next step in its development, or do nothing and fall to the wayside. Efforts to organize were spearheaded by Sylvia Miller, who is now board chair.

“She’s just a really dynamic go-getter,” Wilder said of Miller. “There’s nothing in her way.”

Bozeman Actors Theatre offers classic American theater to the community. Previous productions have included “The Life and Times of Tulsa Lovechild” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“We’re not musical theater,” said Van Zyl, who is also a board member. “We’re not cutting edge, new theater or improvised theater. There’s a lot of things we’re not.”

“The Language Archive,” which opens this week, is a play Van Zyl and Wilder first saw in Ashland, Oregon.

“It did not have the weight or length of ‘August: Osage County,’” Van Zyl said. “It’s perhaps more celebratory for opening a different phase in the life of the theater.”

For the play’s director, Will Dickerson, the community always has room for more storytelling arts, including another theater company.

“It’s not so much we’re filling a void, but we’re adding variety and texture,” he said.

The Bozeman Actors Theatre will move to the Black Box this week for a few days of rehearsals in the performance space before the preview of “The Language Archive.”

“We’ve been as flexible as we can as a fledgling group without a home of our own, rolling with the punches and making art wherever we can,” Wilder said.

For more information, visit Bozeman Actors Theatre on Facebook, or call 406-580-0374.