As regional theater across the country close their traditional seasons, “summer stock” theaters open their performances to the public. Current third-year Department of Theatre student Laura Rizzo started rehearsals for the regional theater company Yellowstone Playhouse just after the end of this spring semester and is quickly approaching her first opening night on the new stage.
Many summer stock companies are geographically separate from a typical downtown theater scene, where they can take advantage of the summer weather as a tourist location or present in outdoor amphitheaters. Originally named for the reuse of “stock: set and costuming, these venues run a repertory of different shows every night on one stage in various resort-like locations. Programs like these offer theater students an artistic outlet over the summer break to work on old skills and develop new ones, while serving as a way to keep from getting rusty.
Mack’s Inn Playhouse was a long-time, regional favorite summer theater company located in Island Park, Idaho (just over 300 miles north of campus). It was a little haven for laughs tucked in the pine trees, serving great food and a great show in a small space. After putting on nearly 70 shows a summer for a whole decade, the playhouse is opening their first summer season in a new building, the Yellowstone Playhouse.
Rizzo acts as a member of the inaugural cast, which stepped into the building to start their work just as construction finished theirs. A typical day involves rehearsing from morning to night to prepare for roles in each of the three rotating shows. She stays on her toes, learning a scene one day and working to have it memorized by the next.
As her training in the Musical Theatre Program promotes, Rizzo comes prepared. From being spotlighted as a witty sidekick pirate, to joining the ensemble of punny hillbillies, to showing off her skills in the Golden Age classic “I Can Cook Too,” the variety that summer theater provides allows her to show off her strengths in high energy roles. She also feels as though her MTP training has not only strengthened her as a performer but taught her to “be a good person” in the theater. Reflecting on her experience so far, Rizzo said, “I have learned that being kind and enjoying every second will really set you apart and allow you to have the best experience.”
There are eight people in the cast, many of whom auditioned with Rizzo at the Rocky Mountain Summer Stock Theatre Auditions this past February, and they hail from other Utah universities such as Southern Utah University, Utah Valley University and Weber State. They all live in the theater housing, summer-camp-style, on which Rizzo remarks, “You do really become family with these people.” Despite the taxing hours they work and spend together, Rizzo is still positive about the unique experience. “We can see some good in every day, even if every day was not good.”
Yellowstone Playhouse presents comedies each year, promising “laugh out loud fun” with the parodic lineup featuring “The Prince-less Bride,” “Pirate of the Car-Rib-Eee-An,” and their own variety performance “The Greatest Road Show in Idaho.”
Tickets are available on their website or through their box office if you find yourself that far north. With a beautiful new venue tucked in one of the most pristine spots in the world, summer stock theater is an amazing experience you won’t want to miss.