A new theater company reinvents the classics in a relevant way
When one thinks of classical theater like the many works of Shakespeare or the ancient Greek dramas of Euripides and Sophocles, the idea may seem archaic and even stifling to many immersed in 21st century culture.
But Nicholas Rapp made it his mission as a director to reinvent those classic scripts and themes into something accessible to modern audiences through a newly formed theater group, the Montana Art Theater.
He says producing classic plays is something the two already established theater groups in Whitefish don’t easily do, and reinventing classic plays would bring an alternative artistic touch to the local theater.
While this is what Rapp has spent his career on, he didn’t come to Whitefish last year with the intention of starting a new theater company. It wasn’t until after working with Caitlyn Goeman on a recent Whitefish Theater Company production, for which he directed and Goeman was the assistant director, that he thought about the nonprofit startup. It was precisely the way Rapp and Goeman worked together that made them believe that they could create a new theater company that would be successful and bring great value to the community.
Right after deciding that the duo would form their own theater troupe, Goeman suggested they bring in Abigail Brooks as the business leader – Goeman and Brooks work closely in the theater program at Flathead Valley Community College. . Brooks said she had no hesitation in getting on board and could see the potential of the new theater group.
AS THE three artistic gurus put their talents together, they hope their vision of the theater will be loved and cherished by the local residents who attend the productions.
âThe classics can seem a little stuffy and difficult to tackleâ¦ but that’s what I do,â Rapp said. “And I know that when I do, especially with this team, it will be exciting, invigoratingâ¦”
All three involved in the business have unique backgrounds that contribute to a well-rounded team.
Rapp graduated in theater from UCLA and received his Masters of Fine Arts from La Jolla Playhouse at the University of California, San Diego. He apprenticed with many renowned directors and also directed several productions on his own.
Goeman was born in Missoula and moved to Kalispell eight years ago. She said performance has always been of interest to her, but when she was younger she trained specifically in classical ballet. As a young teenager, she left ballet and discovered acting as a way of expressing herself artistically. She attends FVCC on a scholarship in the theater department and over the past two years has performed in over 15 shows with the college. She also branched out and worked with both the Alpine Theater Project and the Whitefish Theater Company.
Brooks moved to the Valley at the age of 10 and has always been interested in art and dance. In college, she discovered acting and got more involved in comedy in her sophomore year of high school. At Flathead High School, she studied theater and now attends FVCC, majoring in theater. She has experience in performing and directing.
âThey are very wonderful partners in this theater company,â said Rapp. âI think the biggest assets they bring are probably hands-on experience; I have these surface credentials, but these aren’t that important in my opinion. “
RAPP VA serve as artistic director, Goeman as executive director and Brooks as business leader. They recently auditioned for their first production which will be performed at the O’Shaughnessy Center in downtown Whitefish at the end of August.
The company is also keen to raise awareness with schools in the valley and is starting with FVCC because of the connections Goeman and Brooks already have. In the future, they hope to continue to create educational partnerships with schools in Montana to provide a fun and accessible way to learn theatrical works.
In addition, the founders of the company hope that those who attend their shows will not only be entertained, but also challenged to see different concepts in a new light. Society believes that while entertainment is all about entertainment, art is about stimulating and challenging a way of thinking.
âWe should be creating material that sticks with them (the audience) and opens bridges in their minds,â Rapp said. âIt has to do with a certain mental and spiritual health, and the theater is designed to serve that purpose – not just to entertain, but to heal in a certain way.
âWhen I talk about re-imagining the classics, I’m talking about re-imagining them the way we get our own impression, given the current times we live in, of what exactly this text is trying to do,â Rapp said. . “And not just at the time, we’re not trying to recreate an artifact, we’re trying to reconcile that artifact from the past with this moment right now.”
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