CURTAINS UP AMERICA! Boise Contemporary Theater Pushes Through Challenges To Share Art with Idaho

By Kimberly Dijkstra

April 29, 2021 — For over 20 years, Boise Contemporary Theater has been a driver of arts and culture in Idaho. The black box theater, led by Artistic Director Benjamin Burdick, is committed to telling stories that resonate with the community and highlight the human experience through contemporary works.

Poised in March of 2020 to stage the world premiere of “The Show on The Roof,” a musical that examines Boise’s social and political turbulence in 1955, Burdick and his team had to make the difficult decision to postpone the production due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the time, there were only a handful of cases in Idaho. With the majority of the cast coming from New York, an early COVID hotspot, Burdick sought advice from friends and contacts in the medical world.

“My biggest nightmare was that we would somehow be a location of some sort of super spreader event,” Burdick said about management’s decision to shut the theatre. “While it was disappointing for the actors, artists, and staff, everyone understood.”

He added, “Patrons also understood, and frankly, I think they were relieved that we made the call.”

Weeks later, Idaho Governor Brad Little mandated the closure of non-essential businesses, but Boise Contemporary was ahead of the curve. 

Like many other theatres in American, BCT turned to virtual performances. 

 

“We tried to do a Zoom reading. It was just terrible,” Burdick recalled. He wasn’t pleased with the medium, so he scrapped the experiment telling the performers he wouldn’t put them in a position where they wouldn’t look their best.

ACT then partnered with The Idaho Botanical Garden. In June, July, and August 2020, the theater staged three readings on the garden’s gorgeous 15-acre property.

“It was outdoors, it was a beautiful setting, and as soon as we put the tickets on sale for each of those shows, it was sold out within the day,” Burdick explained. “There was already this real desire to see art and theater and gather safely.”

In the fall, they conducted their first-ever audio play, a one-woman show called “Ann” in celebration of former Idaho Governor Ann Richards and the centennial of the 19th amendment. They plan to release a filmed version of this show and audiences are geared up for another outdoor summer reading series.

Boise Contemporary Theater is located in downtown Boise in the BODO district surrounded by opera, ballet, and philharmonic venues, forming the creative lifeblood of the city. 

“There’s a large artistic community here – a great pool of really talented actors, and also writers, and filmmakers, and poets, and musicians,” Burdick said. 

This creative community is part of a symbiotic relationship with downtown businesses. ACT often hosts “after show events” at local restaurants, often flooding the place with theatre goers. 

Burdick would like nothing more than to get back to that tempo of life. 

“The hardest part of reopening is making all of these contingency plans, and the uncertainty,” he said.

One thing is certain, “The Show on the Roof” will rise! It’s an important piece of Boise history that highlights battles fought by and the perseverance of the LGBT community with song, dance, and humor. 

ACT’s goal is to open the show when the in-person capacity is near 100 percent. Burdick explained, “it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.”

For more on Boise Contemporary Theater, visit bctheater.org.

With additional reporting by Waldo Cabrera.

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