“Barefoot in the Park”: 50 years of Montana Rep

Montana Repertory Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary with Neil Simon's classic

On Stage

“Barefoot in the Park,” Neil Simon’s romantic comedy, comes to stages across Montana as Montana Repertory Theatre, the professional theatre-in-residence at the School of Theatre and Dance at The University of Montana, celebrates its 50th season.

"Barefoot in the Park"
Montana Rep’s production of “Barefoot in the Park” stars Whitney Miller and Hunter Hash.Photo © Terry Cyr

“Over the years we have presented four plays by America’s master of comedy, Neil Simon – ‘The Sunshine Boys,’ ‘Broadway Bound,’ ‘Biloxi Blues,’ and ‘Lost in Yonkers’  all with great success,” writes director Greg Johnson. “It comes as no surprise, therefore, that for our 50th anniversary season we once again turn to Mr. Simon and produce ‘Barefoot in the Park’ – the play that put him on the map over 50 years ago, jumpstarting a career unmatched in modern times. We feel it is fitting in this auspicious season to honor and produce one of the true giants of the American theatre. Please join us as we celebrate a half-century of great theatre!”

In 1967, Professor Bo Brown founded the Montana Repertory Theatre to enable drama students at the University of Montana to bring theater production to communities in rural Montana. That first season saw the production of three plays: George Bernard Shaw’s “The Devil’s Disciple,” William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and “She Stoops to Conquer” by Oliver Goldsmith.

Over the decades, the program has continued to grow and expand. In 1977, under the leadership of James Kriley, the Montana Rep transitioned to a professional company, bringing professional actors, directors, designers and technicians to work alongside University of Montana students.

Then in 1996, the company staged its first national tour with its production of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Since its inception the Montana Repertory Theatre has produced over 75 touring productions and over 200 plays in total. Its goal of serving the city of Missoula, the state of Montana, and the nation is vital and ongoing.

For the past 27 years Greg Johnson has lead the Montana Repertory Theatre to national prominence as a touring operation. In addition, he – along with Michael Murphy and Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Marsha Norman – founded the Missoula COLONY bringing writers of national renown to Missoula every summer for the past 20 years.

Now entering its 50th season, the Montana Repertory Theatre puts in more miles and more performance dates than any other national touring theater company in the United States. It stands at the forefront of a tradition of touring professional theatre, but stands unique in professional theater for its distinctive educational relationship with UM’s School of Theatre and Dance.

The celebration started this fall, when the Rep took Laramie Dean’s “Brontë to the Future!” on the road to over 50 Montana middle schools and high schools for its 2016 Educational Outreach Tour. The company will premier the 2017 National Tour of Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” marking its 50th anniversary with a gala premier and dinner party in Missoula on Jan. 20. The show continues with performances at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21, Jan. 26-27, and Feb. 2 and 4, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at the UM Montana Theatre (call 243-4581 for tickets). The show also heads to Billings, Butte, Bozeman, Helena, Lewistown and Plains before touring a dozen states.

In celebration of its half-century anniversary, the Montana Repertory Theater will publish a retrospective souvenir program of its first 50 years, supplemented by ongoing online features detailing the history through writing, photo, posters and other artifacts from its collections.

For more information, visit montanarep.org/montana-repertory-theatre-celebrating-its-50th-season.