Big Sky Community Theater gears up for Nov. 29 production of off-Broadway play

By Rachel Anderson Explore Big Sky Editorial Contributor

BIG SKY – As the days become shorter and the sun fades behind Lone Mountain, the bright lights of the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center are illuminating the stage in preparation for this year’s Big Sky Community Theater’s performance of “Almost, Maine.”

In its third year of production, co-directors John Zirkle and Jeremy Harder introduce their rendition of a mainstream production written in 2004 by John Cariani. Set in a small town in northern Maine, which Harder describes as a loose parallel to Big Sky, eight vignettes explore love and relationships over the course of one evening in the fictional town of Almost, as the northern lights hover in the winter sky above.

“I’m very excited because it’s real stuff that everyone encounters,” said Harder, who briefly attended acting school in San Francisco. “[The play] taps into dynamic friendships and relationships that we all take for granted.”

With the support of Big Sky School District’s Adult Education Department, Big Sky Community Theater provides the opportunity for adults in the community to participate in the arts. Local talent performed “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Not Your Usual Charles Dickens Christmas Show” in 2013.

“The community talent for theater has been great so far,” Harder said. “Each year draws in new talent. It’s the people who you sit next to you while you’re out for breakfast or ski next to down from the tram.”

A fresh face new to the WMPAC stage this year is Big Sky local Kevin Pillsbury, a musician of 19 years who’s no stranger to on-stage performances. Exploring a new platform of expression, Pillsbury is enthusiastic about the upcoming production.

“I enjoy becoming a different character,” said Pillsbury, 30. “Learning the subtle nuances of a different personality gives me a sense of accomplishment, and it’s an added motivation to have others depend on me.”

Practice makes perfect, the old adage goes, and “Almost, Maine” actors have been working closely with Harder and Zirkle for nearly two months. Each director brings his own strength to the performance.

“John and I are two different energies,” Harder said. “Having a set of directors with two different perspectives makes things come together really well.”

As an added bonus during this year’s intermission, Mac Chapin, owner of Big Sky Snowman Inc., will be raffling off a snow-removal gift certificate, incentivizing the community to shake off the Thanksgiving Day turkey hangover and support local community theater.

A one-night performance of “Almost, Maine” will take place at WMPAC on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or online at wmpac.com. Previous years have seen a high demand for tickets, so get them early.