The artistic quest for connection

Soul-shaking crescendos, awe-inspiring solos, voices in perfect harmony, or thought-provoking theater all evoking laughter, tears or reflection. The full scope of the beauty of humanity is experienced every season at Warren Miller Performing Arts Center (WMPAC). As society faces new challenges and may venues shutter with the hope for brighter days and fewer headaches, WMPAC director John Zirkle charges on, creating “A New Kind of Season.”

Tickets went on sale Nov. 15 for performances that Zirkle calls compelling, interesting and inspiring.

Robust live streaming infrastructure will allow for people to have the experience virtually and limited tickets are available for those who prefer live performances.

The pivot is entirely thanks to Zirkle’s “flexibility and innovation” according to WMPAC communications manager Rikka Wommack, who noted that the online aspect will allow for the art experiences to be shared with people not only in Big Sky but all over the country and the world.

For Zirkle, it has been months of nearly constant communication with artists, agents and the Gallatin City-County Health Department. Though his job was never easy, it has become particularly onerous to schedule performances during a pandemic.

The challenge was twofold: ensuring a solid performance from the audience perspective and also completely rethinking how shows are made.

One thing is for sure, he noted, this period of reflection has changed things. Artistic people already adept at thinking outside the box are moving far beyond any perceived constraints.

“There are some theater companies that have moved into virtual reality,” he said and explained that the audience can be in a VR room to where when walking closer to someone their voice gets louder, when moving away their voice grows quieter.

“People are doing interesting digital stuff and some are going into hibernation,” he said. “We don’t give up. It’s a test of resilience.”

Details and challenges to artist safety and ensuring a solid audience experience have meant that some efforts have not panned out. The effort is continuous and collaborative.

“Where we have arrived is really amazing. Out of those challenges have arisen extremely innovative approaches that miraculously overcome the obstacles presented by the time of Covid,” he said.

This year there will be distance seating. Shows are supposed to be an hour or less with no intermission and required mask wearing. Performances can also be experienced online at

“They can get single virtual tickets or a virtual season pass,” he said, but not every performance will be broadcasted.

He noted a slow building of “this extremely strong desire to be around each other again.”

“There is a way to be around each other while minimizing risk. One thing that I’m hoping people walk away with for this season is this longing to be assembled again as a community. I think we feel that in a lot of different ways,” he said. “When people come to WMPAC this winter in the distanced limited capacity, or virtually, I think we will feel the desire to be around each other again. When we hit full capacity again, I think everyone will be thankful for that. I know I will be.”

Performances include music performed by broadway star Bobby Conte Thornton, Christmas Carol by Manual Cinema, A radio performance of “Hamlet” by Montana Shakespeare in the Park, Hunter Noack In A Landscape, and The Fourth Wall, which is a custom cultural/theatrical performance for groups of 4-8.

Tickets can be purchased at beginning Nov. 15

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