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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?

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.”

Susan: Well, it’s the same way, I’m the other half of her.

CrisMarie: And she’s connected to me.

Susan: So I feel some responsibility for your bubble. And sometimes a touch resentful of the bubble like wait a minute.

Kim: I want to be in that bubble.

Sue: It does [crosstalk].

Kim: But I know Nick who is new to the community is fabulous in the show. And we sat down and we’ve had discussions at auditions about it. “This is what you’re doing, this is what you’re getting into.” And he was like, “Nobody in my age group is really talking about it.”

CrisMarie: Yeah. He’s 28.

Kim: He’s like, “This is actually good to talk about it a little bit.” And so I think we’ve all been very responsible.

Susan: And I mean it is sort of amazing because you have continued to bring things in. You actually have three shows that were getting practiced at one point in your theater.

CrisMarie: Rehearsing.

Susan: Rehearsing. And, Betsi you brought in a whole kid’s production this summer out at the baseball field, the baseball [crosstalk].

CrisMarie: Yeah, how did you do that with kids? I was worried about our 28 year old. So how did you take care of the five, and eight, and nine, and 12 and whatever year olds?

Betsi: I almost think that the kids might be better at it than a 20 year old would because they’re – I mean you know what I mean? They’re just really – particularly at this point now with Aladdin, they are so used to masking up and they’re in mask all day at school and they take that so seriously. That when they come to rehearsal for Aladdin they never ever, ever take their masks off. And we rehearsed outside, and I think ATP’s approach has been to be outside and to rehearse everything outside and perform everything outside.

But anyway, so we are rehearsing Aladdin outside on the lawn of the Methodist church and the kids are very, very good about wearing their masks. Camp was a little bit different because they hadn’t gone back to school yet. However, camp was a little bit older kids, it was fifth grade through seniors in high school, so they understood. And the people coming in from New York were extremely serious about it. And the kids understood how much it meant to the pros that they be careful.

Not that we’re lax out here at all, I don’t think we are. But we just have a lot of space in which to actually be out and about without our masks. And the people in New York obviously do not have that. When they got here it was just – it was almost like they were shell shocked or something. It was really, really interesting because it was the first time any of them had gone anywhere. And they took a chance to come out here and teach the kids. But anyway, so the kids have been extremely good about wearing their masks.

CrisMarie: That’s powerful. I didn’t even think about that. And of course the New York people would have much more sensitivity. I mean now our numbers are going through the roof. It’s almost like we’re hitting our first wave really, even though we’ve been in this now for six, nine – or six, however many months we have been, so yeah.

Betsi: It feels like five years.

Susan: So I mean how have, you know, because there are so many people affected in the arts by what happened with Covid and yet there’s so much creativity. And some of our local people have gotten together to put a musical together. I think it started in the respective homes or something, I don’t know, for sure I’ve made that up because I heard singing across households.

CrisMarie: David.

Susan: David. And then they wanted to put something together and you guys I think have been instrumental and helped supporting them to do that.

CrisMarie: Tell us. Can you tell us about that or how have you supported other artists in the area.

Susan: Yeah.

Kim: We all support each other here. I mean we are just – there’s no competition, there’s no nothing. We’re just thrilled for anything, any arts we can bring to this town and to our community, and to our kids. And it’s a beautiful thing to have. I’m a little sad that usually ATP, WTC at the beginning of the fall, we get together and we’re like, “Cheers to the new year,” and our seasons and everything. And of course because of Covid we can’t. And I look forward to that time again because I think generally we support as much as we can, anything.

So a mix of our community people and some people who work for ATP came together and they wanted to do, this year the musical’s been cancelled. And they wrote the script and all the songs and they asked for some financial support from us. So a really good combination, good working together of all the artists in our community.

Betsi: I agree. We have an amazing relationship with WTC, we have what we call happy hour. And initially we wanted to do it every month, but it ends up now probably once quarterly. We get together, we trade-off, it’s either at the garage or over at WTC. We just have drinks and talk and the staff gets together. And it’s really been – I don’t know – it’s really cool because we talk about the things that are going on that are hard and raising money. “And how are you guys doing at raising money?” And how, you know, just all kinds of things, all kinds of conversations.

But it’s such a great relationship we have with WTC and we love that. And yeah, Erica and Mikey and Davey, and the project they’re doing with the musical is going to be super, super fun and we were all onboard. Erica called me and she was like, “So I’ll write up the proposal.” And I was like, “You don’t even have to do that Erica, it’s fine.” We want to support it, it’s like a no brainer. So I’m excited to see it. Luke has a little part in it, so that’s cute, that’s fun.

Susan: So I mean I’m curious for you guys, even I mean I imagine with the business, I imagine in a show. What kind of experiences do you have with conflict and how you show up. Betsi you and Luke work together, so husband and wife.

CrisMarie: Husband and wife.

Susan: And I know how that goes, wife and wife, we have our challenges.

Betsi: Yeah, God bless you all.

Susan: But what sort of things can you say about how conflict shows up and how you guys deal with it when it does, whether it’s on a show. I think even in a show sometimes I can imagine sometimes you actually want that conflict to show up because it’s an important part. But then it may show up when you don’t want it to too. So how is that…?

Betsi: As long as he does exactly what I want it’s all okay.

Susan: She can say that now, but Luke is not here.

CrisMarie: It’s convenient Luke’s not here.

Betsi: It sounds so ridiculous but I can’t imagine if Luke went away to a job eight hours a day that was something different than what I did. So much of our – really we’ve been together 20 years. And 17 of those years we’ve been doing ATP. So I can’t imagine it any other way. And we really don’t – I guess I can say we don’t have conflict.

But Rachel and Luke tease me, they say, you know, and as actors we talk about having your instincts and use your instincts. They tease me and they say, “Betsi loves you to use your instincts as long as they’re her instincts.” Herstincts is what they call it, herstincts. We don’t – it sounds weird, I wish I had something juicier to say. But I don’t really. Yeah, sure, we fight and I want something this way and I don’t know. But it just isn’t anything that is – I don’t know – significant.

Susan: I would imagine, I mean and I don’t know, this comes up for CrisMarie and I because when we’re – I think a lot of what we – now we work with corporate teams, business teams, leaders. And I think we’ve become so natural about how we go right through that conflict, it gets, you know, it just happens. We have a difference of opinion and we deal with it, we talk about it, people see it. And that a lot of times is what we hear from teams. They see it and they’re like, “Wow, you guys got through that, it wasn’t that big of a deal, we can do it.”

And I would imagine that probably – does that sometimes happen between you and Luke where people just…?

Betsi: That’s exactly [crosstalk]. It’s that we don’t bottle anything up. And God bless Rachel, because Rachel truly, you know, Luke and I say exactly what we are feeling at any given time. And I think it’s why there doesn’t end up being a lot of conflict is we resolve it right away. There’s nothing that’s ever bottled up really. And yeah, ATP has certainly gone through a lot of administrative people because the way Luke and I work is not typical. People sort of feel like should I be hearing you? I don’t know, it’s just that’s the way we deal with it. We say what’s on our minds.

Kim: Communication is for any team, I think that when you don’t communicate and you don’t listen to other people’s ideas, that’s when you get jacked up. I mean that’s what we do, we’ll have discussions and I’ll want something one way and say, “Can’t you do this? Or can’t you just cut two feet off the set?” And Robbie’s like, “You shouldn’t do that.” But we’ll talk about it and we have, I think our team here at WTC is so solid, because we respect other people’s opinions. We want other people’s opinions, because that only makes us stronger.

And as a Director too, I want to hear what my actors have to say and what they’re thinking, because it’s going to make me a better person and a better Director. And they’re probably along the way going to be right as we get closer, especially when we get closer and closer and they discover so much more, for example, about their characters, than I had imagined. So I think that listening and the talking. And yeah, there’s going to be some conflict. But putting it into, I guess, a creative slot, really can actually help a lot of times too.

Susan: I want to point out that as you guys are kind of saying, we don’t have much conflict in our world view. What you’re describing is what we call the beauty of conflict. In other words, conflict really isn’t fighting. I think people think of it like that. But when we actually get out of that to that place where you actually are listening and dialoging, there can be a lot of energy in that. But that is actually what we think of as really the gift in conflict, that’s the beauty of conflict. So it sounds like you have it but you get the beauty out of it.

You don’t go into the despair, broken divides around right, wrong. You use it to get to something better is what I hear you saying. It may be messy but you get there. But that is very cool. I mean that’s something we keep driving in the business community. And I don’t think the business community allows itself that same emotional, maybe they don’t always value that underneath it. This is an important part.

But I think in the arts you really value the emotional landscape, you want that in things. So you’re a little more willing to recognize, it’s a part of this whole makeup, we can’t just avoid it.

Betsi: I think that’s exactly right, I mean I love that. It’s so – as an artist, it is part of your emotional landscape. We love being emotional.

CrisMarie: Yes, we do.

Kim: And I think we realize too, we’re so lucky to get to do what we love. And everybody that you work with, when you’re doing some theater, is getting to do what they love. They want to be there and everybody wants to make it work. So I think that helps a lot too.

CrisMarie: And Kim, because I haven’t worked directly with you Betsi, but I have several times with you Kim, and even last night that came up, somebody had a different idea. And you were really good about hearing it. And when we all had our different Covid talks and I’m crying, and then you’re crying. There’s space for that. And that’s often in business communities, that’s often like, “She’s a little too sensitive or are you okay over there?” So it’s a little bit more shamed versus creating the space for people to move through that and then use it in the arts, in the scene.

Susan: Betsi, you’ve worked with professional actors coming in from Broadway and you work with community folks. What are some of the challenges that you face with either of that group?

Betsi: I’ll just say first off, we have – Whitefish has the greatest community theater in America. They really, really – the quality of WTC shows are so awesome, I just was so lucky to have them. It is the truth, the truth. So I don’t know, do you want to speak to that, Kim, first?

Kim: And this is a throwback, we are so fortunate. What Betsi, and Luke, and ATP gives to the kids in this community and the shows that they put on with their professional actors. It’s just always, you know, and the special events like the OperaLesque, and anything, and The Garage. And all of those things, it’s all just so different. And so we just, again, we have such a great relationship. So we appreciate ATP and all that we can learn from them too.

And I know, because on the other side when I’ve been an actor here, sometimes you try so hard and you have this thing in your head. And then your Director’s like, “Oh no, no you’re heading down the wrong path.” And we’re like, “What?” So I can feel it from that side when I’m giving a direction sometimes and somebody’s like, you know, I can see the actor go. And I don’t think I liked…

CrisMarie: She froze.

Susan: Oh no, she froze in that look, oh no.

CrisMarie: There you are.

Susan: There you are.

CrisMarie: You’re back. You’re back.

Susan: That was kind of perfectly timed because I think that is what happens, they freeze.

Kim: They do. So it’s always – and every person’s different in the way they take notes and trying to struggle together. Every actor’s different. I think that’s the biggest challenge is finding a way to kindly get them where you feel like they need to be and along the way it’s hilarious. I mean you find out so many things and you could – somebody said a line wrong. We were doing a show Boeing Boeing, when we knew we were bad we’d go, “Oh.” And Erica will turn around and goes, “That was so horrible, here’s your Tony.” And we had a ton of Tony’s when we had a really bad acting moment.

Susan: That’s a great way to shift the mode of it.

Kim: Yeah. And we even call each other out. I was like, “That was horrible. Can somebody give me a Tony right now?”

Susan: That’s great, I love it.

Kim: So yeah, and so I started doing that with some of my cast too, if somebody did something, it was like – I actually had when I was young, all these gold masks for every show I was in when I was a kid and up all the way through college. I have tons of these 80s masks that I used to hang on my wall, little mounds and mines and stuff. So I used those in one of the shows to hand out Tony’s. I’d be like, “How do you feel about that acting moment?” And I was like, “Yeah, here’s your Tony.”

CrisMarie: Here’s your Tony.

Susan: That’s great, I love it. Well, then your – because everything – your people are all volunteers. So really that is a different thing than…

CrisMarie: And they have their paying job that they have to balance and so I think…

Kim: It’s amazing. It’s amazing that they do that. I mean I remember working before I started here full-time, directing at night or being in a show. And getting up at 6:00am to go be a special ed para at Evergreen. And then going home and shoving something in my mouth and maybe trying to get a workout in and then going to rehearsal till like ten at night. And then you’d have come down from that, so you’re up late.

So I always feel for everybody now. I’m like when I go to work I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, I’m going to work woo hoo.” And I get to hear actors going, “I’ve got to get up for work tomorrow.”

CrisMarie: That was me last night, by the way.

Kim: There’s a lot to try to be sensitive about, when you’re doing a community theater.

Susan: Yeah. And now, Betsi, you, on the other side you have these professional people, it is their job, they’re coming in. They probably – how is that, what challenges are you dealing with even when you have to give them feedback that they may or may not want to hear?

Betsi: I think that when you do it for a living it just, you know, the structure of theater is very, very specific and everybody knows the structure. And so if you can’t take criticism, theater, you know, show business is not for you.

CrisMarie: Constant.

Betsi: But David Ackroyd always says, “Being a Director is a benign dictatorship.” It is an interesting position because you have a big team of people, you have designers, and choreographers, and actors, and a whole team of people that you have to get onboard with your vision even when they might think something else. But hopefully you have – and it’s taken me years, and years, and years, and years to learn. And I’m still not great at it, I try. But to get everybody onboard with your vision in a way that makes everybody happy, and fulfilled, and loving the final product and all of that.

So this summer, like I said, when our people came from New York, it was the first time they’d been out of the city and it was a scary thing, I’m sure, for them, to step on an airplane and come out here. But they did it. They did it because they love ATP and they love Whitefish, they love our people here.

Anyway, so camp was – we had one of those July’s where it was between 95 and 100 degrees. And we performed outside. Everyone was just – we had icepacks for everybody, I mean people were getting heat things and…

CrisMarie: Stroke.

Betsi: Right, like left and right. But the pros, there was absolutely not a single complaint from anybody. Everybody was so, number one, happy to be working, I think, and creating because it had been a long time. And the same thing with the OperaLesque people, I mean there we were out in the forest, the girls had no clothes on. There were bugs. You know what I mean?

CrisMarie: Well, they had some clothes on, but.

Betsi: Marcie, she went all the way, [crosstalk] naked, she did. That was a little special Covid treat for the finale of OperaLesque.

Susan: I love it.

Betsi: But anyway, again, not a single complaint from anybody. So I think that – I came across this little quote for camp that we opened the show with. And it’s essentially, and I’m not getting the quote completely right, but it’s essentially, “Out of chaos grows opportunity.” And I really, you know, that has very much guided our way. And I think that there is so much opportunity to be gained from this chaos.

CrisMarie: Yeah. That’s really what we – I mean I think Covid has changed all the rules. And so that’s one of the reasons we wanted to interview you, because we think actually conflict is a form of chaos, and out of that can come creativity. And this is a real big shift and you both have responded so powerfully and creatively. And creativity is so important for the soul for all of us to be involved in it, to watch it. It helps us process things and get through our emotional lives.

Susan: Even when you were describing what it’s like for you as, you know, when you bring in these professionals, it just reminds me of how many times we talk to business leaders and they’re talking about the same thing, how do. Because so many times business leaders want to kind of force their vision. And that is a very old outdated model of leadership. And if nothing, you know, I mean we’ve had a hard time letting that go in our country I think, we’ve had some challenges around it.

But Covid is definitely throwing it to the wind, we are not going to be able to come back from this doing business quite the same way. And the very challenges you’re talking about, I think are, how do we bring people onboard around a more unified vision? And I think the arts are probably going to lead the way because that’s – they appreciate that possibility. Right now I’d say the arts are doing a little better than the political side of things. And I won’t get into politics, much beyond that but maybe the debate was…

CrisMarie: Oh gosh, don’t even go there.

Susan: Yeah, okay. Sorry. I may have to cut this part out.

CrisMarie: Yeah, I think you were going to say something, Kim?

Kim: When our season, we were going to do, you know, we started the season doing Lost in Yonkers and they were going to do Elf, the musical. And then we couldn’t get the streaming right for Lost in Yonkers. And we didn’t think it was smart to have a bunch of people singing and running around on stage. And in Elf would have to be, you know, it’s a huge, huge show.

So we decided to do – we came up with this idea to do a smaller show. We didn’t know what it was going to be called. At first it was called The Whitefish Community Winter Holiday Showdown, Snowdown, [inaudible] Extravaganza Cabaret Show, and that’s a little stand out. But what we did is we had people who wanted to be in a show and they came with this. We did it a little differently, we had them audition with something that they wanted to audition with. But then we have a group of writers.

So a lot of the same people who had been in the musical and they did the cabaret here in town. And so basically they took who got cast in the show and they’re writing a show around it. And it has five kids in it. So it’s the Basement Bunches, Very Merry Holiday special.

Susan: Ah.

Kim: I know, so it’s about these kids who decide to put on a show through Covid with their whacky neighbors and parents.

CrisMarie: I love that.

Susan: Okay.

Kim: Yeah. And so the sets are going to be – I’m going to make sure the set is all different levels. So we don’t have huge singing groups all together breathing on each other. They’ll be on a different level. But I mean that again is bringing together a whole new group of people with the kids, and the writers. And we have musicians and all these people coming together to do a first time community show that they get to be in, the first time we’ve ever done that here, so we’ll see.

Susan: That’s very cool.

CrisMarie: All that creativity.

Susan: Yes.

Kim: Yes. And we would not have done that, because I was like, “I don’t want to do that.” But then now I’m super excited. We would not have done that without Covid.

Susan: Yeah. And I think that’s great. And now I know one of my favorite events of the year is the Alpine Yuletide. Are you going to be able to – and those of you who are outside of Whitefish don’t know of this incredibly special Yuletide event that happens each year here. But are you guys going to be able to do that?

CrisMarie: ATP.

Susan: ATP this year.

Betsi: Yes. I mean the plan is to do it. And we’re doing it outside.

CrisMarie: In Montana.

Susan: I was just thinking, because you guys have really taken your theater outside, and so that is its own challenge. Wow. Okay.

Betsi: I feel like it’s 90 minutes, people go stand at [inaudible] for 90 minutes, people go…

Susan: It’s so true.

Betsi: You know what I mean?

CrisMarie: Yeah. We’re hardy folk.

Betsi: We’re hardy folk. Nick Spear actually called me yesterday and he was like, “I am so onboard to do Yuletide. But I have to tell you that if I’m outside my fingers are not going to work, and my guitars are going to be,” you know, so there are going to be challenges. It’s hard to sing outside when it’s cold and all of these things. But we’ll rent lots and lots of standup heaters and my vision is to have…

CrisMarie: Hand warmers and feet warmers.

Betsi: Yeah. My vision is to have – to just invest in a whole bunch of portable fire pits. And so everyone, like families can just have a fire pit that they have there and just warm. Because our audiences are capped at a 100 people. So it’s not like you’re dealing with the masses really.

CrisMarie: That’s great.

Betsi: Yeah, so it’s happening.

Kim: I can’t wait.

Susan: I love that. It’s so cool. Both of you have these different ways that you’ve approached it. And it sounds like have actually spent time talking about how you can support each other in it. I think that is incredible. And we just want more people to realize this is what can happen with more collaboration, community, investment and just knowing you want to keep something alive and going and thriving.

CrisMarie: Yeah, and connecting, and creating from the current circumstances.

Susan: So thank you, I mean…

CrisMarie: Anything else that you want to say just as a closing comment before we end the show?

Susan: And we’ll put show notes where people can find you. But anything you want to share about what’s up next for you or where people can locate you is great, more information.

Kim: For Whitefish Theater Company we have Sylvia coming up next which CrisMarie is in. And you can come here and socially distance and see it here or you can buy a ticket to go online. And we just switched it, and stream it, and this will be a full show, sets and costumes and everything. And we’ve changed it now. Beforehand when we’ve done it you had to watch the show right at 7:30. From now on, once you buy a ticket you get a link, you’re going to have 48 hours to watch it.

CrisMarie: That’s cool.

Kim: I know. And we’re figuring it out as we go along. Up until December we have then another black curtain called Radiant Vermin which is just a mind blowing script, it’s wonderful. Yeah, and then we’ll have our Basement Bunch show.

CrisMarie: Yeah.

Susan: I love it, okay.

Kim: You can come and see it either way. And thank you guys for having me here today, this has been awesome.

CrisMarie: Absolutely.

Susan: Yes.

Betsi: And I have to say that I think what WTC is doing, they’re handling everything so well. The reason that we have chosen to be outside is because the Performing Arts Center that we use as our home is part of a school. And so because of that it is not open. So our little kids’ production of Aladdin Junior coming up, we are going to be doing it out on the soccer fields. And it is October, it’s the weekend before Halloween. So I think it’s October 22nd, 23rd, 24th, right there.

Yeah, the next thing is Yuletide and that’s the December 17, 18, 19, something like that. And then we’ll be into the new year into 2021 where hopefully…

Susan: Who knows what that will bring.

CrisMarie: Let’s hope it’s more sane.

Betsi: You can check us out at just to learn more about the organization. And thank you so much for having us you guys.

CrisMarie: Thank you for taking the time.

Kim: It’s good to see you Betsi.

Betsi: And you Kim.

CrisMarie: Raise a drink.

Susan: Yes, there you go.

Kim: Yes.

CrisMarie: Thank you women.

Susan: Yes, thank you.

Kim: Bye guys, bye bye.

Susan: Bye.

CrisMarie: We hope you enjoyed that interview. We sure did. One thing we did figure out, it is WTC, because it’s Whitefish Theater Company. And it is a community theater. So that’s where we were thinking.

Susan: So it wasn’t dyslexia.

CrisMarie: It’s our confusion. And just by the – if you want to check out what either of these companies are doing, you can check their websites. We’ll put the link in the show notes. And if you’re interested because WTC is streaming, if you’re out of the area you can still watch Sylvia, October 15th through to 18th, or October 22nd through to 24th, because you can buy streaming tickets.

Susan: And I tell you, I have been reading through the lines with CrisMarie. I have played every part she has, even the one she has. And it’s a delightful play, so I encourage you to check it out.

CrisMarie: Check it out.

Susan: And I’m sure there’ll be things you can check out through ATP as well.

CrisMarie: Yes, they have Aladdin going on and then Yuletide, and does WTC has ongoing schedules. So enjoy.

Thank you for listening to the Beauty of Conflict podcast. We know conflict, stress, and uncertainty can be hard to navigate. So, if you want more support you can check out our other resources. We have two books on Amazon.

Susan: Our business book is The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage. Or our couples’ book, The Beauty of Conflict for Couples. We also have an e-book, How to Discuss Difficult Topics. We’ll put the links in the show notes to make it easy for you.

CrisMarie: Also, if you need help with your team at work, we regularly conduct team sessions both live and virtually. If you’d like us to speak at your next event or if you want coaching, Susan and I each coach business leaders, individuals, and couples, you can reach us at, that’s

Susan: If you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast please take 30 seconds to give us as iTunes review. It helps get this show out to others. Thanks again for listening. We hope you have a peaceful, productive, and beautiful day. Take care of yourself and we hope you’ll join us again for another episode.


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Download the eBook, How to Talk About Difficult Topics, today!

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