BOZEMAN — After more than two decades, the coronavirus pandemic is closing the curtain on one of Bozeman’s community theaters.
The Verge Theater has called this stage home for 22 years
For the actors who took the spotlight, it has become a family.
So this news, as you can expect, is not easy to swallow.
“It’s time for Verge to say goodbye with gratitude to this wonderful space,” says Hilary Parker, executive director of Verge Theater.
A stage that has told many stories…
“When I first started doing theater here, the ceiling was much lower,” remembers Jaelyn Silvey, a longtime member of Verge. “We only had, like, three or four lights in here.”
That’s where Jaelyn Silvey remembers first taking the spotlight.
Silvey has been with the Verge since she was eight years old.
“Growing up was definitely not easy,” Silvey says. “There were a lot of hardships that I had to battle through and having this space, to have an outlet for all of those feelings and experience them right here just means so much.”
Silvey recalls being involved with Verge for more than 10 years, taking part in at least 12 shows in teen theater alongside many others.
From not throwing away her shot in “The Greatest Fairy Tale That Was Never Told,” to eventually directing teen theater, Silvey shared story after story.
But the tears come from the news - This stage has seen its final curtain call.
“I had a feeling that this news would be coming soon,” Silvey says. “Having a space where I could try new things without a bunch of judgement or people laughing at me and it was a safe community and finding those people who would support me and love me even if I broke a chair on stage, which I totally did once or twice.”
“I love this space so much,” Parker says. “If I thought this space was the right space for us going forward, I would donate plasma to keep it.”
For Parker, it came down to two crucial factors: ventilation and sheer space.
“To put people in here safely distant as we will need to do coming out of COVID, it just isn’t possible,” Parker says. “We share space and ventilation with everyone in this strip mall. It’s an older building and in order to rehab it, to make it something that would work for us moving forward would be very costly.”
“When I got that email from Hilary, I was in the car and I just started crying because my space, my home away from home, it’s not going to be there anymore,” Silvey says.
But, the curtain is not down forever with a continued focus on virtual improv, programs with the Gallatin County Detention Center and beyond.
“I really believe that it’s never going to go anywhere,” Silvey says. “There are too many people who have found themselves in the shows that we’ve done here and the programs.”
While this stage off of 7th will retire, Parker and Silvey both quote ‘Hamilton.’
The Verge isn’t standing still; it is lying in wait.
“We’re an incredibly strong group of people,” Parker says. “We’re a family. We’re going to produce again. The question is where?”
Silvey compares the feeling to tech week, the week traditionally spent for the opening night of a show where the cast and crew prepare for any mistakes or unexpected issues.
“This is just the beginning of tech week when you have that first run-through and everything just goes so wrong and it just feels like it is just going to fall apart and you’re not good enough and you don’t know your lines,” Silvey says. “But you know as it goes on, it’s going to get better. There’s going to be so many tears, so many happy tears and that feeling of perseverance because I think that’s what part of being in theater is, is persevering through the hard parts.”
And they both look forward to the next opening night, where the tears won’t be sad ones.
“Once we finally get there, it’s going to be so beautiful and so magical,” Silvey says. “I’m very excited to see what that is for the Verge. There’s going to be more tears than this, I bet. Happy ones.”
Parker says they do have some surprises in the works, hinting to pop-up performances in Bozeman, just one method of many planned to keep Verge alive.
“More than anything, I think I’ll feel so proud that everyone pulled together, that everyone rowed an oar on the same boat in the same direction to find a new home and to put up more art together,” Parker says.