Missoula is putting on an American stage classic as the Missoula Community Theatre opens its production of “The Rainmaker” this weekend.
Greg Johnson, no stranger to putting on plays in Missoula, will be serving as the director for the play.
Johnson is also the artistic director of the Montana Repertory Theatre at the University of Montana, where he runs productions using both professional actors and UM acting students. He said he has had a working relationship with MCT since he came to town in 1990, having previously been both an actor and director in other plays shortly after arriving in Missoula.
“I have a really warm place in my heart for MCT,” Johnson said. “Periodically, they ask me to do something, and I’ve always been busy.”
After the Montana Rep finished up its production of “The Great Gatsby,” Johnson said he finally had the opening in his schedule to be able to director an MCT performance.
As “The Rainmaker” is a community theater production, Johnson said he has some actors with previous stage experience, and some who are new. While that made for some early growing pains after the show was cast, the enthusiasm won out.
“Everyone is really there doing their best. It’s funny in a town like Missoula there are a lot of people with a lot of talent just waiting to show it,” he said.
Especially for the actors who haven’t been on stage before, Johnson said they embody the idea of community theater for Missoulians, by Missoulians.
“Very often when people are not trained, they start acting too much. All you have to do is just suggest that sometimes, less is more with really good acting,” he said.
The Montana Rep productions Johnson is used to working on also have to be able to be packed up to go on tour. He said the ability to not have to worry about the limitations of having the show travel has been liberating.
“You can just think about the design elements, the prop elements, and go crazy,” he said.
The play, originally written by N. Richard Nash, centers on a father and his three children living on a ranch in a drought-ridden Midwest town during the Great Depression.
“The cows are dying, water is drying up, they just fired two ranch hands and the daughter appears to be heading toward spinsterhood,” Johnson said.
Into the picture comes Starbuck, a con man who has been traveling from small town to small town promising to bring rain in exchange for $100. Johnson said the play centers around how his normal routine of getting his money and leaving town is disrupted after meeting the daughter.
“I’m not going to give it away, but there’s a lot of nice twists at the end. It’s not a picket fence, walking into the sunset happily ever after type of play,” he said.