The Bigfork Summer Playhouse was founded in 1960 by Dr. Firman ‘Bo’ Brown and his wife Margery Hunter Brown as a place for University of Montana theatre students to perform in the summer. In 1964, Brown hired Don Thomson as a technician and the following season, Don encouraged Jude (Judy) Irvin to join the BSP crew as the piano player. Don and Jude were married in the fall of 1965 and later acquired the theatre in 1968. While both of Don and Jude’s sons earned degrees in the entertainment business and have worked at BSP in past summers, the eldest, Brach, joined Don and Jude as one of the owners and producers of the Bigfork Summer Playhouse in 2001.
In the early days of the Bigfork Summer Playhouse, the company ate group meals, rehearsed, and lived in the same place. There were no facilities to build scenery, nor extra storage of any kind. As a matter of fact, the building didn’t even belong to the Bigfork Summer Playhouse — it was a Community Hall owned by the Masons and the Eastern Star and seated approximately 200 people. The summer group would rent the facility and bring in the stage, risers, and seats for the audience.
We’re pleased to say that, although the Bigfork Summer Playhouse still doesn’t own the building, as of 1988, it is housed in a 435 seat air-conditioned theater with great fly space, a spacious lobby (updated in 2009) that contains a concession area, and wonderfully comfortable continental style seating for hundreds of guests. Over the years that the Thomsons have owned the production company, they have worked to build numerous spaces off-site to accommodate production needs including a dormitory facility for the actors (updated and expanded in 2003); living quarters for the directors, technicians, and musicians; costume shop; scene shop; and rehearsal space.