Good theater requires creative improvisation, and the same goes for running a good theater company. The Montana Actors' Theatre (MAT) is currently adapting to some major changes with the impending departure of Grant Olson, the Missoula chapter's artistic director who is going overseas to pursue a doctorate degree in theater. Olson's responsibilities will be divided among an artistic council that will answer to MAT's board of directors in Havre. But according to MAT's president, Jay Pyette, the internal restructuring shouldn't affect audiences.
"We're undergoing some pretty dramatic changes, but nothing that's going to really disrupt the flow of MAT," says Pyette.
Pyette began building the professional company with Olson in 1993. Olson started the Missoula chapter in 2008 and Great Falls gained a MAT chapter last year. Until now, Olson has worked somewhat independently of the Havre-based company office, producing, directing and acting in shows such as Dead Man's Cell Phone and A Midsummer Night's Dream, and supporting cabarets and open mic theater nights. While Olson enjoyed the Missoula chapter's relative autonomy, he says the new structure will help make the company more cohesive.
"Communication will be a lot better and we'll be able to share and pool our resources a lot more," says Olson.
This past season MAT Missoula took over management of the Crystal Theatre and produced 12 shows—a necessary number for the company to stay afloat, but a strain on Olson and his small staff. Pyette hopes that if the chapters work more closely together Missoula could produce nine shows, for instance, and fill the other slots with Havre or Great Falls productions, and vice versa. And MAT audiences statewide will get exposure to new actors.
In the meantime, Olson plans on continuing with MAT until he moves to England in the fall. But, even then, he doesn't plan on severing ties completely.
"I'm trying to work it out so that I can do some of my Ph.D. research back in Montana with the company," he says. "I don't want to quit working with MAT. It's been such an important part of my life."