NewsLocal News


Yellowstone Repertory Theatre hosts first play written and produced in Billings

Posted at 10:22 PM, Oct 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-21 00:22:17-04

The Yellowstone Repertory Theatre is kicking off its fifth season of performances, and this year features a play called "Straight On To Stardust", which was written and produced in Billings.

It's the first time the group has ever put on an original performance. The play details the story of a man as he drives his father's body from Billings to New Mexico through a snowstorm, and he is visited by ghosts from his past.

"It's exciting," Artistic Director Craig Huisenga said. "Partly, because it's the first show of our season, but I'm really proud of the growth and I hope we can keep going in that direction."

Huisenga helped form the YRT in 2017, and he said being able to perform an original shows how much progress the group has made.

"We've read a couple of other original scripts, but this was the one that stuck and made us want to move to the next steps," Huisenga said. "It's really cool just for us to still be here and to be moving in the direction we had hoped to."

Huisenga said it's also a step towards their ultimate goal of establishing Billings as a place where professional actors can get paid enough to stick around.

"That's been our mission, is to try and bring professional theater to Billings while recognizing the artist that deserves to be paid for their work," Huisenga said.

The play was written by well-known Billings author Craig Lancaster, who has been a fan of what they are trying to do at YRT since it first began.

"I think live theater is absolutely vital to any community," Lancaster said. "I and my wife were the first season ticket purchasers."

That passion and support is why Lancaster has visited many shows as an audience member, but this year will be different.

"It's the first play that Yellowstone Rep has fully developed," Lancaster said. "It will be super cool. I'm excited to see the final production."

The show premiered over the weekend at the NOVA in downtown Billings with three showings, starting on Friday and concluding with a Sunday matinee. In total, there will be six more performances on Oct. 27, 28, and 29 and Nov. 2, 3, and 4. The evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. and the matinee is at 2 p.m.

Lancaster said seeing his vision turn out as he always hoped, by a group he loves, is overwhelming.

"When they do their work so well, it means they connected with my work," Lancaster said. "That's a really cool circle for an author. I just feel endless gratitude. Lot of plays get written, but some of them don't make it. It's special it gets to happen here."