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Stevensville Playhouse brings community together around theater

Historic small-town theater continues to bring sold-out shows to two
Stevensville Playhouse
Stevensville Playhouse Sign
Jim McCauley
playhouse music
Posted at 7:42 AM, Feb 09, 2023

STEVENSVILLE - The Stevensville Playhouse rests in a building almost a century old and in a community of fewer than 3,000 people.

But the theater is able to produce sell-out shows that attract people from Darby to Great Falls.

The local theater is run on volunteers and community support. They have a board of five directors — most of whom also act in the plays — that handle casting and advertising.

Despite the location in a small town, the Stevensville Playhouse has several local patrons that financially support the theater.

"We are in a small town, but we do have a lot of patrons that really support the theater, and they see it as a real asset to the community, so our attendance has been fantastic," said Stevensville Playhouse president Jim McCauley.

Jim McCauley
Stevensville Playhouse president Jim McCauley says, "we are in a small town, but we do have a lot of patrons that really support the theater, and they see it as a real asset to the community, so our attendance has been fantastic."

The building for the theater has undergone several renovations since its first role as a movie theater in 1930, hosting 250 people.

It was converted into a stage theater in 1988 and has been advancing since then.

The tech room now includes LED lights and individual microphones for each of the actors while the theater house is filled with costumes, both donated and created by volunteers.

Most of the props and stage decorations are made in-house, with the table saw and tools behind the stage.

"That's all thanks to the contributions and the support of the community," said Susan McCauley who previously served as president of the organization.

Everyone contributes something to the shows, making the volunteers feel like a small family.

“It’s just one big family, from the board — who are fantastic 00 down to all the volunteers to the actors, to the audience," volunteer Maria Mittelstadt said.

Stevensville Playhouse Sign
The building for the Stevensville Playhouse has undergone several renovations since its first role as a movie theater in 1930 when it hosted 250 people. It was converted into a stage theater in 1988 and has been advancing since then.

The theater works to make sure everyone feels welcome to come to see a show, act, or volunteer.

Susan McCauley says they will always accept new volunteers, no matter what their background.

"We use anybody who comes," she said. "Right now, one of our most dedicated volunteers is on the autistic spectrum."

Typically, shows at the theater involve between eight and 12 actors, according to Jim McCauley, but for their recent rendition of 'The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe," they included 28 adults and kids.

While they have little problem finding audience members or volunteers, Jim says they struggle recruiting actors — particularly men that can sing.

The Stevensville Playhouse has brought artists in from outside of town — including from Darby and Missoula — to help solve the problem.

playhouse music
The Stevensville Playhouse rests in a building almost a century old and in a community of fewer than 3,000 people. But the theater is able to produce sell-out shows that attract people from Darby to Great Falls.

"We are advertising and getting a following from Missoula, all the way to Sula," said volunteer Jaime Devlin who oversees advertising and youth programs.

While they are in a small community, Devlin isn't surprised they are able to sell out shows. She says they have a type of show experience that can't be found in other places.

"We have a very unique setting here, it's very intimate," Devlin said. "Not only do you generally know somebody on stage, but your friends are here. And when you walk through our doors, we welcome you and you become part of our family."

The theater is currently rehearsing for its rendition of Gilligan's Island, which will premiere on March 10. More information about the show can be found here.

The Stevensville Playhouse is located at 319 Main Street in Stevensville.