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Equinox Theatre: On the VERGE of a Name Change
Taking children to the theater is usually a frightening proposition. There are potential pitfalls everywhere—they could talk the whole time, have a meltdown mid-performance, or spill the snacks stashed in your bag. On a very cold day last November, a small theater on North Seventh was full of children, and most of them were yelling at the performers. It would have been every parent’s worst nightmare, except it was in Equinox Theatre. The performers did not storm off the stage as you might expect. Instead, they encouraged the kids to yell louder and more often, supplying the ideas that drove the performance. The kids and their parents were enjoying the theater’s Silly Moose Improv show.
Kids who arrived early had the opportunity to color with some of the performers before the show. Sitting around with colorful crayons and an inviting blank page is a great way to get their creativity flowing, one of the actors explained. It also gave the kids a chance to get comfortable with the very performers they would soon join on stage. There is a part for everyone to play at the Silly Moose, and all the kids that wanted a turn on stage got one.
Of course, Equinox Theatre is not just for kids. In fact, most performances are very adult and very funny. Adult comedy at the Equinox is a tradition started 18 years ago by Soren Kisiel and Katie Goodman, who went on to start Broad Comedy, which tours internationally and will be returning to Bozeman to perform at the Emerson in the spring. Although Broad Comedy is now completely separate from Equinox Theatre Company, Kisiel’s and Goodman’s influence is still all over the stage on North Seventh Avenue. “They created an artistic space where off-beat, irreverent and original theatre had a home in this small mountain town,” explained Erin Roberg, the theater’s Artistic Director and Programs Director.
While Equinox Theatre holds true to its roots, one thing is changing: its name. Equinox Theatre will soon become Verge Theater. The name change is an effort to dispel lingering confusion after the departure of the theater’s founders. Verge/Equinox has always been a non-profit organization. After its successful start, Kisiel and Goodman started Camp Equinox, a for-profit summer camp for kids interested in acting. “Most people always assumed that the camp and the theatre were the same business, and three years later after making efforts to enlighten, this is still a common misconception. So, to distinguish the theatre from the camp, we thought a name change was in order,” Roberg explained.
Arriving at the name Verge Theater took some time and a lot of input. The theater’s Board of Directors even asked for suggestions on its Facebook page. After much deliberation, Verge was chosen. “The name is consistent with our edgy approach to life in Southwestern Montana: testing the cornice on a ridge before dropping into an untracked snowfield, stepping off the boardwalk path in Yellowstone to observe more closely the bones of some mighty beast that trundled into the steaming cauldron, striding onto the stage of a 90-seat black box theater with a life-size puppet strapped onto you that has a mind of its own,” said Board member Bennett Drozic.
The actors decided to put together a new improv show to spread the word. “Improv on the Verge” will be on the main stage on February 11 and 18, with more performances through May. Shows start at 7p.m. and cost just $5. The show will open with the theater’s Harold Angels, and an improv performance by the Mainstage Players will follow.
Upcoming theatre performances include “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)” in February, a fictitious account of the invention of electricity and one of its first medical tools. “Urinetown” will be showing at the end of March. It is a Tony award-winning musical about a time in the future when everyone will have to pay to use the restroom. “The Rocky Horror Show” will be playing in April with an extra midnight show on the 20th. May kicks off with a Verge Theater original “Three Glorious Weeks” written by the theater’s own Ryan Cassavaugh. Shows are every Friday and Saturday night at 8p.m. A full schedule can be found at the Theatre’s website: www.equinoxtheatre.com and are listed at www.bozemanmagazine.com/calendar.
Verge/Equinox Theatre also offers a variety of classes and camps for aspiring actors and comedians of all ages. Erin Roberg teaches Musical Theatre and Comedy Improv to kids in grades 1 – 6 on Saturday mornings. She welcomes kids to try a class before committing to an entire session if they are feeling shy or unsure. Teens can test their acting skills at Teen Theatre, after school rehearsals that result in a performance. Last year the teens performed “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. Rehearsals take place three to five times each week, and everyone that registers is guaranteed to get a part.
Verge/Equinox Theatre offers improv classes for adults as well. Ryan Cassavaugh and Christian McDaniel teach nine-week sessions for every level of experience. They start with the basics at Level 1 and introduce students to a number of improv games. Five different classes are offered that allow students to build on what they have learned and work to perfect character and scene development through improv.
Verge/Equinox Theatre works hard to keep tickets affordable. Most shows cost $12 with a discount for students, Improvs and Silly Moose are just $5. The theater relies heavily on grants, donations, and sponsors to keep going. But, it is the audience that continues to inspire the actors, who are not afraid to take risks to bring new and exciting shows to the stage. Drozic explained, “If you really want to know why we called ourselves Verge, make a reservation, drive to the theater, grab a seat and hold on. We’re going to huck you off a cliff.”
Sarah Cairoli loved the Silly Moose Improv, and will be going to an evening show as soon as she can find a babysitter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org photos Angie Ripple