Bringing Theater to the KM Building

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead Valley is a veritable theater hub in Northwest Montana, with plenty of playbill options in Whitefish and Bigfork. Now, a theater collective is branching out to Kalispell, creating more opportunities for local actors and audiences.

The Stumptown Players, who formed in Whitefish but also have Kalispell members on their board of directors, will host “Mere Mortals: Six One-Act Plays” by David Ives for two weekends this month at the KM theater in Kalispell.

Shows are scheduled for Jan. 13 through Jan. 15 and Jan. 20 through Jan. 22, with a free preview on Thursday, Jan. 12.

According to director and Stumptown Players’ board president Jim Mohn, the one-act comedies are “crazy yet thought provoking,” and should entertain audiences with their wit.

The plays vary in subject, but most tackle personal relationships. For example, “Mere Mortals” eavesdrops on construction workers sitting 50 stories over the street during their lunch hour, whereas “Time Flies” features two lonely-but-sweet young mayflies that meet at a pond and hit it off.

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased by calling 871-6447, or at the box office one hour before the performances.

Most of the 11-member cast is from Kalispell, Mohn said. When they held casting auditions for the plays at Flathead Valley Community College, Mohn said a lot of familiar faces turned up, but they also uncovered some “pleasant surprises” as well.

“There is a lot of talent in this valley, so we’re really excited about creating a season where there are more opportunities to audition,” Mohn said.

Mohn and other “theater types” founded the Stumptown Players in the spring of 2010 after they noticed a hiatus in shows at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish. The group wanted to maximize its members’ theater opportunities, Mohn said, so it created a board of directors.

Each member pitched in $100, Mohn said, and they rented the O’Shaughnessy Center and performed the show “Sylvia” by A.R. Gurney.

“It was very successful, so we kind of just sat on that and thought about other shows,” Mohn said.

They followed that up the next summer with the comedy classic “The Nerd” by Larry Shue. They received their 501(c)3 nonprofit status this winter, Mohn said.

Members of the group, which Mohn described as a “theater artist collective,” have typically been involved in other theater projects around the valley.

With the success of their productions at the O’Shaughnessy Center, Mohn said the collective wanted to branch out to a winter show, but the venues in Whitefish were either booked or too expensive.

The decision to branch to the KM building in Kalispell was a no-brainer, he said.

“It’s just charming and intimate,” Mohn said. “I’ve always loved that space and it just seemed like a logical extension.”

Mohn said his group was looking forward to getting into the building and preparing the stage, since most of the rehearsals for the Stumptown Players in the past two years have taken place in living rooms, garages and yards.

The Stumptown Players don’t necessarily fill a void in the Flathead Valley theater scene, Mohn said, but they can fill certain niches. For example, there’s plenty of musical theater during the summer, he said, but rarely just straight comedy, which is something his group does.

There are also other possibilities for expansion. Mohn said that since the one-act plays don’t require much in the way of stage preparation and are only about 15 minutes long apiece, they could be used during conferences or meetings as a means of entertainment other than music.

The ultimate goal is to become a mobile group, one that selects plays the audience wants to see and the members want to perform, Mohn said.

Another possibility is including various types of artists to perform under the Stumptown Players’ umbrella, Mohn said. But for now, their focus is on the upcoming performances in Kalispell.

“We really lucked out with an amazingly talented cast and we’ve been working really hard,” Mohn said.

“Mere Mortals: Six One-Act Plays” runs Jan. 13-15 and Jan. 20-22. Shows begin at 8 p.m., except on Jan. 15 and Jan. 22, when they begin at 2 p.m. For more info on the Stumptown Players and how to get involved, call (406) 871-6447 or write to [email protected]

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