by Amy Pearson
Tianta Stevens remembers the first play she was cast in as a kid. She was playing Igor in a 4th grade production of Frankenstein when she got sick the morning of the performance and had to stay home from school. She remembers thinking that her teacher probably thought she got stage fright, but the fact of the matter was that she really wanted to do the show.
Stevens is the Managing Director of Act Normal Theatre and the owner of Escape the Falls escape rooms in Great Falls.
Stevens has been involved in many aspects of theater both onstage and backstage since that early Frankenstein setback. She was involved with Center Stage in downtown Great Falls prior to its closure in 2008 and then with Montana Actors Theater. When it closed after just a few years, there was not a lot of theater happening in the area for about five years. “I saw a need, particularly for dinner theater,” Stevens says. “And I thought it sounded fun.”
In 2013, she jumpstarted Act Normal Theatre, which according to their website, “produce murder mystery dinner theater shows for public performances and for corporate and organizational events.” Dinner theater shows are performed in a variety of locations with Times Square Event Center being the most recent with The Play That Goes Wrong. The Theatre strives to produce between two and three shows a season for public performance but is always available for corporate or private performances.
“I like to call our actors ‘stage athletes,’” Stevens laughs. “It takes a lot of energy to produce a show. It is physically demanding.”
Some of Stevens’ favorite shows over the years have included Comedy of Tenors and The Play That Goes Wrong. Then again, every show they produce is one of her favorites.
She lights up describing the plots and staging of their productions which are sometimes “borderline slapstick” and “extremely physical.”
This year Act Normal hosted their first ever Summer Theatre Camp for kids aged eight through thirteen. Stevens received numerous queries regarding a kid’s program before deciding to give it a go. The kids received training in basic theater skills, lunch, and rehearsals over two weeks culminating in three performances of The Thirty-Three Little Pigs. The Theatre will likely host a version of the camp again next summer so stay tuned.
Escape the Falls is a collection of themed escape rooms in which you have sixty minutes to solve a series of clues with friends or family to “escape.” Stevens bought the business almost four years ago and is currently hard at work getting their next escape room “Siren’s Cove: A Pirate Adventure” up and running. A party room is available for rent and lobby games entertain you while you wait for your escape room adventure to begin. Escape rooms can be booked online at www.escapethefalls.com.
There are a variety of ways to support Act Normal Theatre. First, go see a show! Second, your business can purchase ads at an extremely reasonable rate in the show program which are seen by over 500 people. Third, you can donate funds to support the arts in Great Falls. Fourth, you can donate any fabulous costume items you might have lingering in the back of your closet. And fifth, go see a show! The thriller Gaslight is tentatively scheduled as this fall’s show near Halloween. Come find out where the term “gaslighting” originated.
Another novel way to get involved is to sponsor one of Act Normal Theatre’s productions. To highlight and thank Procraft Body and Paint for sponsoring The Play That Goes Wrong, Stevens created a thirty-second live action commercial humorously highlighting Procraft’s services which they acted out at the end of each show. One overheard comment was, “I think that’s the best commercial I’ve ever seen!”
For more information, visit the Act Normal Theatre Facebook site or website at actnormaltroupe.com. The Troupe is available for private events or fundraisers.