By Ron VandenBoom
Arthur Kipps was a man who saw a ghost -- a haunting specter that lingered in the back of his mind, challenged his reason, and drove him to desperation.
How does Kipps purge himself of the spine tingling apparition that haunts his memory and disrupts his life?
Learn the answer when the Montana Actors Theatre presents "The Woman In Black" Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 9-11, at 8 p.m. in the Havre High School auditorium, with a special matinee performance Saturday at 3 p.m. The cost will be $6 for adults and $4 for seniors and high school students.
The play takes place in a London theater between productions where Arthur Kipps, played by Havre High School drama teacher Jay Pyette, has decided to purge the haunting spirit from his mind by relating the story to his family and friends. Unable to muster up the courage to do this himself, Kipps hires an actor, played by Grant Olson, to tell the story for him.
Sounds simple enough -- it's not.
The actor then becomes the man who saw the ghost and Kipps plays all of the other characters he has met along the way.
"The two switch roles," Pyette explains. "The man who has seen the ghost (Arthur Kipps) then just becomes everybody else in the story and the actor ... starts playing Arthur Kipps."
Pyette will be playing seven different characters in this two-man performance and Olson will be playing the role of the actor and Arthur Kipps -- when Arthur Kipps isn't playing himself, or being himself, or being played by Pyette, or something like that.
Pyette guarantees that any confusion will be explained away as the twists and turns of this new and unique production unfold on the Havre High School stage.
"It's a wonderful show," Pyette promises. "There's some humor in it, but mostly it's just a ghost story. It's kind of creepy and it's fun. It's a fun kind of scary."
Pyette promises the play will keep the audience on the edge of its seats and contain lots of surprises.
"They will follow it fine," Pyette said about the plot, "but they might be wondering where some things are leading. But of course, by the end of the show, they know."
Sound effects will also help lead the audience through the maze of twists and turns while adding a new dimension to the production.
"Sound effects are extensive," Pyette said, crediting sound technician Chris Durward in the process.
"The sound effects play pretty much the whole show," Olson said. "Because there's no set, the sound effects take that aspect of it and really help set the scene."
Others involved in the production are Pam Veis, production assistant, Kristi Doll, stage manager, and Mikyla Veis, light operator.
Pyette and Olson both saw the play performed in London and were impressed enough with the production to want to perform it in Havre. But according to Pyette, when a play is running in a major theater area, they will restrict it for production anywhere else. It was just released last year.
"We both had been wanting to do it," Olson said, "and decided that now that it had been released we were going to do it."
Pyette and Olson have worked together for seven years, first when Olson was a high school student in Pyette's class and later as part of the Montana Actors Theatre. Their years of experience together on stage have allowed a symbiotic relationship to develop between them.
"If we didn't, he would have killed me by now," Olson said, as they shared a laugh of mutual respect.
"And I may yet," Pyette responded, continuing the jest.
"No, but really," Pyette said, becoming serious, "we have very different styles of not only the acting, but of the process. That, I think, is probably a good thing."
See the proof for yourself when the curtain rises on "The Woman In Black" Thursday on the Havre High School stage.