Billings Studio Theatre: Open for Business By Rosalyn Visser Of the Summit Staff

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Have you ever wondered what that building is in the Tyler Hall parking lot? Well, that is Billings Studio Theatre (commonly called BST)! BST is a community theatre that has been dedicated to providing Billings with live performances for 68 years.

BST is a rather small organization with only six regular employees, and the rest of the people — actors, directors, stage managers, and other contributors — are volunteers. Despite being a small organization, BST puts on eight to ten shows per year and extends its space to the community, including allowing Rocky Mountain College to use the stage twice a year for performances. 

As across the world, 2019 and 2020 proved to be challenging years for BST when the COVID-19 pandemic closed down their operations at different times. There were instances when Executive Director A.J. Kalanick had to wonder if BST would survive. 

“It was such a stark, empty feeling,” Kalanick stated, “Never have we had where everything ground to a halt and there was no hint of when we would start again… The future there was a big question mark.” 

However, while Broadway just recently reopened its doors, BST has been open far longer following Montana’s guidelines, sometimes seating at only 40% capacity. They took the necessary precautions to operate safely and continue to keep patrons safe to this date by putting social distance between families and requiring masks. 

Throughout the pandemic, Kalanick was determined to keep performances live rather than recording shows, as some other theatres did. 

“The thing about live theatre is there is an invisible energy that you cannot duplicate,” Kalanick said, “You can videotape a live performance and play it back and it will appear flat compared to the live performance. There is an energy that exists there. There is a connection between the audience and performers.” 

To experience this energy for yourself, BST has a full season ahead! Their upcoming show is “Bell, Book, and Candle,” which is set in the 1950s and revolves around three witches. The play kicks off when Witch Gillian finds Shep Henderson, a handsome publisher, in their apartment building. 

Gillian then uses her powers to make Shep fall in love with her, but Gillian’s challenge is not to fall in love with him, as she will lose her powers if she does. This comedy follows the witches and publisher’s journey and is completed with a drunk author.  

Director of “Bell, Book, and Candle” Sarah Holm says, “It’s a very fun and whimsical play. It’s a little bit of comedy, a little bit of a romance. I guess, a rom-com if you will. It’s perfect for the Halloween season.” 

“We have so much talent within the cast,” Holm says, “The chemistry between them all is just amazing. You know for these people who have never met before, they just click together, and they belong. It’s really neat to see.”

Holm then went on to articulate, “As a director it is fun to come after the show opens and just watch everybody and to see the progress from beginning to end, to see how the cast has grown and how much they have come together as a group and how they have created an amazing piece of art.” 

Kalanick points out that college is a time to interact with the community and experience new things, including the arts. He believes that attending the theatre and enjoying the performing arts adds to your quality of life. 

Kalanick says: “Community becomes a home rather than just a place you live,” and BST contributes to “the cultural fabric of Billings.” 

To attend Billings Studio Theatre shows, Rocky students receive a discount, paying only $19 for a play and $21 for a musical. Simply call (406)-248-1141 or go to the box office to buy your tickets for “Bell, Book, and Candle.” They also will offer purchasing tickets online at a later date. To view this season’s lineup, click the link below.

So venture across the Tyler Hall parking lot to experience the joy of live theatre and support the arts.

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