Episode 65 – Drew Durrant, Yellowstone Playhouse
Laughter is the Best Medicine
From Memorial Day until Labor Day you will find Drew Durrant and his crew in Island Park cooking prime rib and performing family-friendly productions for thousands of visitors to the area. COVID-19 has put a little kink in theater plans this year and has delayed opening of Yellowstone Playhouse until June 26th. In an effort to employ an abundance of caution, dinner will not be served this year. They are also reducing the number of guests so that social distancing can be observed. Family groups will be seated together while being distanced from other guests. Concessions will be offered so guests won't go hungry. “We've been doing the prime rib since 2008, we've served a lot of prime rib over the years and to have a recipe as good as ours just kind of sitting for a year is unfortunate, but we'll get through it and it will be back next year,” Drew reassures.
The Yellowstone Playhouse is located just south of the Montana border in the Valley View area near Henry's Lake. Three musical parodies are performed and they rotate so there is different show every third evening. Each year the productions are different and Drew always writes one of the shows himself. “Last year we had 20,000 people come and we were sold out 45 nights in a row, it was packed. So, to go from that to a half-filled house [being] full, we will still give them the same energy and the same laughs, just different circumstances this year,” Drew said.
The cast of 10 is also the food crew and in-between delivering their lines they are expected to seat people, serve, cook, clean, bus tables, take pictures, provide concessions, and attend to anything else a guest may ask of them. “[This year] we'll have energy to spare,” Drew said when referring to the COVID-19 adaptions.
Each year the staff of The Yellowstone Playhouse is found at the Rocky Mountain Summer Stock Theatre Auditions where Drew observes their performance skills and interviews them on their willingness to work a dinner show and perform. “It's a draft day for theatre,” Drew said, “We pay a little bit more, we feed them and we give them housing.” The volume of guests they have the opportunity to perform in front of is also enticing as they are looking to gain experience for future performance opportunities.
The Yellowstone Playhouse is known for performing parodies and offering their guests laughs with every line spoken and song sung. When talking about traditional shows Drew explained, “There's an old saying in theater that goes ‘if it's not on the page, it's not on the stage'……with parody, we drive in an entirely different lane. A lot of the stuff that is on our stage was never on the page. We can play a little bit more off the energy and we can add and delete. It gives us a lot more freedom.”
Drew has always seen himself as a performer, it's in his DNA, his grandparents met on stage. Drew attended college in Rexburg and worked as a performer at Mack's Inn Dinner Theatre for a couple of seasons. Drew's major was in business management with a minor in theatre and he was able to convince his professors to allow him to do a required business internship at Mack's Inn Theatre too. “I ran the box office and performed,” Drew said. After college Drew worked at The Mystique Theatre (currently The Palace Theatre) in Chubbuck and became the general manager. He met and married his wife on the Mystique stage. Chasing their dreams they leased the Mack's Inn Playhouse in 2008 and started the parodies. In the offseason Drew was the jack of all trades, “I did whatever to keep the dream alive,” Drew said.
Drew explained that some of the best advice he ever received was from his Grandpa. Drew turned to him when he was contemplating leasing the theatre, wondering if it would be successful and whether or not he had the skills to do it, he said, “Nobody knows that but you. Throw your hat in the ring. You don't need to focus on what you don't know, focus on what you do know.” Drew says, “I credit my grandpa with really putting me on the path of owning a theatre.”
In 2012 Drew was approached by one of the patrons of the theatre to join him in Hurricane, Utah to work with the students at Diamond Ranch Academy and open a new dinner theater in Southern Utah. Anticipating this would be a year-round dinner theatre, Drew let go of Island Park. In 2015, the playhouse at Mack’s Inn once again became available, and Drew and his crew started summer performances in Island Park again in 2015. Having outgrown their space, a new building was built for the Island Park crew in 2019.
“My first love is being on the stage. I love making people laugh,” Drew said. Drew explains himself as low-key and said people are often surprised to know he's a performer. “I can't quite explain it myself,” Drew said. Drew is involved in every aspect of the business and loves to do it. Drew's family is also involved, especially his wife as she acts as an assistant director, choreographer, and costume designer.
His advice to other potential business owners is to be comfortable with what you don't know and ask for help. Drew has found many on-line resources that have helped him as well as valuable acquaintances who have advised him along the way. He has been successful by using what resources he has available and learning as he has gone along.
The future of Yellowstone Playhouse remains bright and although the crowds at the playhouse this season may not compare to last years, Drew and his crew will be serving us laughs for many years to come.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit their website at https://yellowstoneplayhouse.com/.
Business Leadership Moment
This week learn about selling and who the best salespeople are!
Big thank you to Disruptive Productions for making the show sound great! Check James out at https://www.facebook.com/disruptiveproductions/.