• Thrive Inc.

Collaboration and Creativity at Its Best with Betsi Morrison and Kim Krueger

We keep hearing people saying that they are tired of COVID and are ready to get back to normal. But things aren’t going to return to the way they were, and we must learn to do business and interact in different ways moving forwards. We need to collaborate.

This week we are thrilled to have two amazing women with us on the podcast! Betsi Morrison, Artistic Director for Alpine Theater Project, and Kim Krueger, Artistic Director of Whitefish Theater Company join us to talk about the work they’ve been doing throughout the pandemic, and how they’ve collaborated and thrived during turbulent times.

Join us this week as we talk about connecting and creating through the current circumstances and how local theaters have dealt with conflict. We hear about the fantastic progress happening in theater communities and discuss how there is so much opportunity to be gained from this chaos.

These theater companies are doing fantastic work, be sure to check out what they’re up to. And if you want to see our very own CrisMarie in the show ‘Sylvia’ you can stream the show online!

If you want to make a difference for either yourself and your career, or your team and your organization, be sure to reach out to us and sign up for coaching! We can come and do a book club or simply visit with your team! Don’t worry about physical limitations – we work really well virtually, too!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Learn More:

  • How the arts community is working together through COVID-19.

  • The importance of communication and respecting others’ opinions.

  • How to use conflict to achieve success.

  • Why the business industry doesn’t always value conflict.

  • How to get creativity from chaos.

  • Why conflict is a form of chaos.

  • How resiliency has been developed through the pandemic.


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan.

CrisMarie: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships.

Susan: Now, we know, no one likes conflict, not even us and we’ve written two books on the topic. In our work over the last 20 plus years we’ve found most people avoid, manage or diffuse conflict. The problem is when you opt out of conflict in these ways you miss the creativity, the connection and the possibility that lies in conflict.

CrisMarie: We also know 2020 has been, well, let’s face it, a stressful year. And what Susan and I realized is all the tools that we’ve developed and utilized around conflict apply directly to uncertainty, which is what we’re living in now.

Susan: In this podcast we have tools; concept and interviews that will help you cope with the stress and uncertainty of conflict, of Covid, of social justice issues and, yes, even politics. We hope you’ll walk away from this episode with some fresh ideas that change your day, your week and even your life.

CrisMarie: On today’s episode of the Beauty of Conflict podcast we are going to talk about this new normal that we’re getting to and Covid fatigue. Because so many of us are like oh my gosh, is it over yet? Can we go back to normal? And we believe there is not going to be a new normal. We have to do business a different way. We have to interact in different ways. And one of the things that we see, we need to collaborate. We can’t always compete against each other.

Susan: We’ve been saying that over and over again. And we think that the two women that we get to interview today have done a stellar job, both with their own businesses as well as collaborating and working together. So we’re very excited about today’s show.

CrisMarie: And they are two women that are Artistic Directors in our little town of Whitefish, Montana, also known as the Flathead Valley. And one is a professional, brings Broadway stars here to our little valley. The other runs a community theater and they work together to create amazing things, and just bring so much joy, and theater, and growth to our people, our community.

Susan: And they have found ways to bring it back to our community even in the last few months.

CrisMarie: So before we go into the interview we’ll introduce them. And I will introduce Betsi Morrison who is the Artistic Director for Alpine Theater Project, also known as ATP. Betsi Morrison has been seen on the stages of Broadway as well as the nation’s leading regional theaters, performing in Broadway productions of The Sound of Music, South Pacific. And the Royal National Theater’s critically acclaimed revival of ‘Carousel’ as well as many more.

Betsi , with her husband, Luke Walrath, and David Ackroyd, not related to Dan Ackroyd. Founded Alpine Theater Project in 2004 with a mission to bring the Broadway community to Flathead Valley.

Susan: They have done.

CrisMarie: They have, I know, it’s wicked, such a treat. And for the last 16 years Betsi has produced and directed both adult programs with Broadway stars and she’s used those same stars to educate our local children in the field of acting and singing and they do amazing musicals. And Betsi herself, she’s a lovely soprano and every Christmas they do a yuletide production and we get to hear her sing and it’s just a treat.

Susan: Yes. So I get to now introduce our other guest who is Kim Krueger, she is the Artistic Director of Whitefish Community Theater, also known as WCT.

CrisMarie: WTC.

Susan: You know, my dyslexia coming out, WCT.

CrisMarie: Again, WTC, you can do it.

Susan: WTC.

CrisMarie: Got it.

Susan: I wrote it down wrong here. Okay, dyslexia comes out in very many forms, so I want to go back.

CrisMarie: I think that’s right, okay.

Susan: Yes. Okay. So again, Kim Krueger who is the Artistic Director here, she started off her career, which I just love this, she was Snow White in fourth grade. She was portrayed as a tree and the evil force. And she has been doing theater ever since. I think that’s where she got her love for working with children, I do believe. She has a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts and Theater. And she has also worked in various theaters in California, Ohio, Idaho and Montana.

In 2001 she returned to Missoula, Montana and began working for the Missoula Children’s Theater as the Tour Director Manager of their International Tour Department. She directed and performed for their community theater, she was also the co-founder, co-producer and director for the Independent Theater Every October Productions. In 2009 Kim moved to the Flathead Valley working as the Drama Director for Kalispell Middle School and Evergreen Middle School. And she started various shows with WCT.

She most recently performed in Boeing Boeing and directed I Hate Hamlet and Mama Mia. She’s directing Sylvia which CrisMarie happens to be in as we speak.

CrisMarie: And she also, Kim and I, we both – the first play I was in with the first play she was in here and she’s been my favorite Director. She’s directed me in several shows. So I just adore her.

Susan: They are both amazing women.

CrisMarie: Well, they are, we are so thrilled. Now this actually, we had this interview yesterday, we’re doing the intro. And you’re going to hear them talk about how they work with the theater, the community, the actors, all sorts of things. And one of the things is they talk about conflict. And what did they say, Susan?

Susan: What I loved most was, you know, kind of a lot of people we know, they said, “Well, you know, I don’t know that we really have any conflict.” But then they proceeded to talk about what they did do. And it was so clear, it wasn’t that they didn’t have conflict, they just really got how to use it, how to be full in it, how to bring their whole selves into it, just like what we talk about. So I think they do have conflict, it’s just they are experiencing the beauty of it and not staying stuck in the pain of it.

So I think there’s some really neat things that they’re going to have to offer you today, because we sure enjoyed the interview.

CrisMarie: Okay. Enjoy.

CrisMarie: Today we have Kim Krueger, Artistic Director of Whitefish Theater Company and Betsi Morrison who just disappeared but I’m sure she’ll be back. There she is. Artistic Director of Alpine Theater Project. And they are both local to our little town of Whitefish, Montana. And we wanted to have them on the show because they are continuing to create art in the midst of Covid. And we think they’re being incredibly creative and collaborative. And so we want to welcome you two.

Kim: Thank you.

Betsi: Thank you.

Susan: I mean really it’s always been amazing to me just how robust our little town is in terms of its theater productions between ATP, between Whitefish Theater Company, between college, various things. And you two have really made Whitefish stand out. One is community theater, the other is professional. You bring people in from New York. And so it’s amazing.

CrisMarie: We get the experience of such good theater in our little – well, it was 6,000 people. I don’t know how many people have moved here now.

Susan: Covid has brought a lot of people here.

Kim: Exactly.

Betsi: Yeah.

Susan: You are no longer the only two Broadway people I don’t think, is that Betsi?

CrisMarie: They’ve moved here.

Susan: Now moved here, we have many Broadway stars.

CrisMarie: Yes. So tell us what has, you know, each of you kind of carried forward. But even you can talk about what happened initially for you and then how you kind of came to be to continue moving forward. Betsi, why don’t we start with you and tell us how Covid hit and what you did.

Betsi: Okay. I apologize that I went away there during the intro, we are in the middle of doing Aladdin with 100 kids and the Production Manager was like, “Betsi, I need to talk to you right now.” We are bringing the company in to fly the kids. And she was like, “I have to talk to you right now.” And I was like, “I can’t talk.”

CrisMarie: The show must go on though.

Betsi: Anyway, yes, Covid was interesting. I mean when it first hit we – Rachel, our Production Manager and myself had just been to New York doing auditions for our professional season the week before everything shut down. And so we were in New York kind of – I think we were both lucky to even get out of New York unscathed because it was – the city was crawling with it while we were there.

Anyway so when we got back we started our production of Young Frankenstein with our high school program. We do a musical with the high school kids each spring. And we’d been in rehearsal for one week. And I thought, yeah, we’ll be at home for a week maybe and quarantining and then everything will be fine. But then everything unfolds and we were down for the count. So we just shifted gears and I said, “I just don’t want to cancel this.”

And so the kids had already worked on all the music. And so we just sort of set out to do – we didn’t really know exactly what it was going to become. It became clear very quickly that we weren’t going to be able to perform via Zoom or anything like that because of the lag, and the delay, and the music. And while that can work for a play, for a musical, it became clear very quickly that it was not going to work that way.

Susan: That was amazing. I remember watching it. Because hadn’t you guys stayed up all night trying to get it up?

CrisMarie: Your husband.

Susan: The kids stayed up and it really was – that was one of the first artistic pieces I’d say I had watched, I mean I think later I actually saw a TV show come through with some Zoom. But you guys were the first, the Young Frankenstein performance that you put out. And I thought that was pretty amazing, pretty remarkable.

Betsi: Thank you very much. I ordered green screens for all the kids, all the costumes were sent directly to their homes. It was just – and we did the entire production without anyone ever making contact with anyone else in terms of physical contact. So everybody just did it in their basements by themselves and it was fun.

Kim: And I just want to say to Betsi, I thought it just was one of the best things for those kids at that time when all the world was just going – and to have that for them to do. I just know that was so important to so many of those kids. And it was a beautiful production. So I just – that one just warmed my heart, it was a wonderful thing.

Betsi: Thank you so much.

CrisMarie: Kim, how did you respond? Because you’re the community theater and there was tons of shows lined up and tell us your [crosstalk].

Kim: Well, I cried. So we actually have a music season too and we had this band called Mostly Kosher that was going to come in. And I think that’s the first time I realized it was serious because they’re out of California. And they called and said, “Hey, this is really serious.” And I was like, you know, and here in Montana we hadn’t really heard about it much. And I’m like, “Well, okay.” And then when we started realizing what was actually going on, and so we just – we had to cancel everything and shut down.

And again I think like Betsi, we were constantly making plans that maybe we could still open if it gets done by here and here. And now I realize how silly that was. But when we all were isolating in our homes we had Zoom meetings. And the very first one we said, “We’ve got to stream our shows, that’s how we’re going to survive, no matter how long this lasts.” And so we decided to do an experiment with the Black Curtain [inaudible] called Seminar, that happened this summer.

And so we actually socially distanced, read the show for a long, long time, made sure everyone stayed in their little bubble. And then we hired a couple of people to come and film it and stream it. And we did it for free for the community. So then we have something to watch that was out there, let them know that we’re alive and we’re still going to try to make some of this work. We’ve had to retrofit the theater a ton. We have Plexiglas in the booth, everyone’s wearing masks.

Again we’re trying to still socially distance audiences when they come in. Everyone gets a temperature check, everyone has to wear a mask the whole performance. Our cast are, you know, people wanted great theater. We’ve made this rule basically that you have got to make this, your pass, your bubble, and nothing from the outside right now.

Susan: We can speak to that.

Kim: And that’s the only we can make this happen.

Susan: Yeah. I mean CrisMarie’s in one of your shows right now, and in the bubble.

CrisMarie: Well, and I have to tell you, I had a meltdown when I realized after spending time with my scene partner, oh my God, if he’s got Covid, I’ve got Covid. And I had to kind of go through that. And I really appreciated, Kim that you made space, like, “Yeah, we’ve got to talk about it. And it is a risk, but we’re making it small.” And kind of going through that emotional process and the dialog around it for the younger people in the cast, and so I’m an older person in the cast to say, “Hey, think of me like your family, take care, be careful.”