(Left to Right) Colt Neidhardt, Executive Director; Monika Browne-Ecker, Operations and Production Manager.
The FM community has flourished with arts and culture, and because of organizations like Theater B, that space exists and will continue to do so. For 20 years, the theater has brought both award-winning plays and bold, untested new works to the community through a small team of part-time staff and a board of directors. With their focus staying the same—to bring together a variety of talents, new and seasoned, to push each other and bring their skill and art to the community. The theater is back for yet another season, marking its second decade complete and onto its 21st!
Theater B, integral to the art community, introduces Colt Neidhardt as their new executive director. A North Dakota native, Colt brings a decade of theater experience with him, ready to contribute to Theater B’s mission.
“It’s exciting to be able to bring a lot of that experience back into Theater B and live a little bit closer to family,” Colt said. “I was inspired by Theater B’s mission and the idea that they are a theatre company that’s producing exciting work, but also paying all of their artists for the work that they do… That’s an important part of the creative economy and making Fargo and Moorhead a really vibrant place for artists to live.”
Theater B nurtures both veteran and emerging artists, with a model encouraging mentorship and peer learning. This approach to producing thought-provoking work existed long before the current director joined.
“Something that stuck with me was that the founders’ intention for the company was to present work that wouldn’t be seen in the community otherwise,” Colt said. “A lot of the work that Theater B specializes in, fills a very specific niche in that community. We’re not necessarily going out to do big Broadway standard musicals, we’re thinking a little bit more in terms of, ‘how can we tell stories intimately, potentially, with small casts, and cover challenging social topics, but also find ways to entertain, make people laugh, and feel at home and at ease?’ That’s what is unique about what B offers and what it represents to the community.”
“I would say that our mission is to ask big questions in that small, intimate space, questions that will ignite conversations,” Operations and Production Manager Monika Browne-Ecker added. “There’s no way you’re going to leave a Theater B show, and not want to talk about the show for days and days, because it is the type of storytelling that stays with you, and it’s very relevant to what our community, and by extension, the world is experiencing.”
The theater’s choice of productions is crucial. Each season, staff and ensemble members deliberate on scripts, considering their relevance and connection to the community. Last season, the theater produced “Keely and Du,” which addressed abortion access, for example.
Distinctively, the ensemble, which plans to expand from its current 16 members, participates in creative decision-making. “There’s a lot of consensus decision making, a lot of discussion around what the group collectively wants to work on and put their time towards,” Colt said. “That makes us unique, not just in Fargo-Moorhead, but that makes us unique in some ways across the whole theater landscape.”
The upcoming season begins with “5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche!” and includes four other productions. Among them is a special collaboration for “Winnie the Pooh” with HOPE, Inc., and Concordia College.
Colt explained that all of the shows this season share the theme of connection, be it connections shared between one another, broken connections, or even one’s need for connection. With Theater B’s mission and overall operation—that might be one of the most representative season themes yet.
In addition to providing unique theatrical experiences, Theater B fosters that connection with audiences. Colt emphasized the importance of experiencing intimate and immersive storytelling.
“For us, it’s really about feeling like the audience, and by extension, our community is connected to the storytelling and what’s actually happening,” Colt said. “As a theatre person, and just a person in the universe, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how anxiety and depression are big parts of our day-to-day life, and part of what always drew me to theater was the idea that you can lose yourself in it. I think about how beautiful it is that when we have these intimate stories going on with audience and artist, we’re all being present in that moment to the story and to what’s happening, we’re not being driven into the future or worrying about the past.
The engagement doesn’t end at the curtain call. Theater B invites attendees to Sunday Salon, engaging in discussions about the productions. Experts are often invited to enhance these conversations, providing a deeper understanding of the themes explored.
The theater seeks to serve both artists and the community. Visit theatreb.org for information on upcoming shows and tickets, or to learn about volunteer opportunities. Support your local theater at 215 N 10th St, Moorhead, or call 701- 729-8880.