Flathead Valley Arts Groups Adapt to Stay Open During Pandemic

Two Whitefish theater groups, Glacier Symphony and Hockaday Museum of Art figuring way through unprecedented fall season with mixture of in-person and digital events

By Andy Viano
Betsi Morrison of the Alpine Theatre Project coordinates a production of Young Frankenstein from her tablet on March 26, 2020. The show will be assembled and performed remotely with a series of video and audio clips sent in by their students, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Count artists, performers and musicians among those heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which has closed the doors of performance venues and kept audiences home for the better part of the last six months.

Things are not back to normal as the calendar flips to fall, but after a decidedly quiet summer in a region that takes pride in its vibrant arts community, there are a few options still available to fans of the arts. Not everyone in the Flathead Valley is back open — the Bigfork Community Players are among the valley’s regulars that remain closed as of this printing — but these four mainstay groups are returning in their own unique ways this season.

Whitefish Theatre Co.

(406) 862-5371 | whitefishtheatreco.org

At first blush, the 42nd season of shows from the venerable community theater company doesn’t seem much different from years past, with 14 events on tap that include homegrown theater and a diverse array of guest performances. But anyone who decides to don a mask and head for the O’Shaughnessy Center will notice a different feel, and, new this year, there’s a way to view a number of the performances without leaving home at all.

In-person and streaming tickets are on sale now, with limited in-person access and seating spaced to a safe distance. The streaming performances are pre-recorded and sold as video-on-demand through the WTC website (whitefishtheatreco.org). The 2020-21 season is already underway, with “Sylvia” up next with performances over two weekends, Oct. 15-18 and Oct. 22-24. Tickets are $10 for students, $18 for seniors and $20 for adults. The season concludes in June.

Alpine Theatre Project

(406) 862-7469 | atpwhitefish.org

It didn’t take the folks behind the Alpine Theatre Project (ATP) long to get creative when the pandemic arrived in the Flathead Valley. Founders Luke Walrath and Betsi Morrison pivoted quickly in April to get a performance of “Young Frankenstein” by their ATP Kids troupe moved entirely online, creating a one-of-a-kind show that has been viewed nearly 2,500 times on YouTube.

Since then, ATP has taken advantage of long days and warm temperatures to fight the coronavirus by moving almost entirely outside. The ATP Kids performed “Moana Jr.” in a backyard in June, the group’s annual summer trainings were held outdoors, and the adult-themed “Operalesque” wrapped up last month at a wildlife refuge north of town. Next up is “Aladdin Jr.” The show features Flathead Valley students in first through eighth grades, and performances are scheduled for Oct. 22-25 at Smith Fields in Whitefish. Tickets are $10 for kids and $18 for adults, on sale now at atpwhitefish.org.

Hockaday Museum of Art

(406) 755-5368 | hockadaymuseum.org

The Flathead Valley has still managed to host a fair number of its annual outdoor art festivals, including the Hockaday’s Arts in the Park (which turned 50 this year), and the downtown Kalispell museum is keeping its season alive with a mix of in-person and online exhibitions and events.

The Hockaday’s sixth annual A Timeless Legacy exhibition, this year featuring women artists in Glacier National Park, has been up since August. But all the works — at least those that have not been sold yet — can be viewed on an online auction page that will be live through Nov. 2. Other programs, including an installment of the Artist Conversations series on Oct. 22, will take place in front of a limited in-person audience and be simulcast on Facebook. A full rundown of events and exhibitions can be viewed at hockadaymuseum.org.

Glacier Symphony Orchestra and Chorale

(406) 407-7000 | glaciersymphony.org

Back in May, the Kalispell-based Glacier Symphony announced its entire summer concert series, including the popular Summer Pops performances at Rebecca Farm, would be pushed to 2021, and at the time it seemed like the rest of the season may have been in peril.

But last month, GSC returned with “20 microcosms 21,” a new kind of concert series that will offer live performances by a number of accomplished soloists in front of limited audiences, with a digital concert ticket also available for those who prefer to listen from home. The series began with pianist Rodolfo Leone on Sept. 26-27 at Flathead High School, with a recording of that performance available to ticket-holders on Oct. 17-18. More information and a complete schedule are available at glaciersymphony.org.

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