CRYSTAL FALLS – A Norwegian native has taken over as director of the Crystal Theater Performing Arts Center.
Kristin Underhill began her position in June as the new General Manager of the restored 1927 historic theater in downtown Crystal Falls.
Underhill kicked off her first day with a Missoula Children’s Theater Workshop and a performance by “The Emperor’s New Clothes” on June 10th and 11th.
“It was so much fun – I loved it” She said.
After accepting the job, she remained in regular contact with former manager Angie Dohl, who resigned to focus on her own business.
“We’ve had a lot of Zoom calls in the months before,” said Underhill, noting that they’re focused on this year’s lineup, including securing Gem of a Season acts.
The eight-event season has seen some new appearances as well as the return of favorites like the Blooze Brothers. Just past halftime, the Gem of a Season has three upcoming performances – Cold Tone Harvest, Kelly Jackson and Luminae Trio.
Several other special events are planned, including country legend Crystal Gayle on August 20 and The Insiders – Tom Petty Tribute on August 12.
“It’s exciting to win a national artist like Crystal Gayle,” She said. “I’m also looking forward to the Tom Petty Tribute – I’ve seen them below – they’re really good.”
Underhill feels fortunate to have worked hand-in-hand with Dohl and calls her a great mentor.
“Next year – 2023 Gem of a Season – will be my baby”, She said. “After this experience and my background, I feel confident to continue.”
In the performing arts, Underhill says you have to strike a balance — which will appeal to a wide audience.
“It’s important to find out” She said. “I will learn from this year and grow from it.”
Underhill would love to bring live theater back to the Crystal Theater stage. She has experience in a range of roles behind the scenes in theatre, from costume design and stage work to stage management.
“I did everything but act” She said.
But before that can happen, many things need to be addressed, she said. “The big question is, will it resonate with audiences? I would like to believe it will.”
From now on she is concentrating on this year’s program.
“Finally I’m finding my rhythm and I absolutely love it – I have absolutely no regrets.” said Unterberg.
Getting the job was a fluke as she wasn’t looking for it – the job found her, she said. A Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp veteran, the 1991 Norwegian high school graduate had struck up a reunion with Ruth Warmanen, a board member at the theater. She had told her about Dohl’s plan and asked if she was interested in the position.
Underhill spoke to her daughter, Jade, who will attend the University of Michigan this fall, about the possibility of embarking on the new adventure. “She was very encouraging and felt like now is the perfect time,” She said. Moving back to the area also came with a bonus – her mother, Vicki Underhill, still lives in Norway so Kristin has a circle of friends as she grew up in the area and has worked several summers as a staffer at Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp .
She has spent the last 20 years at Hope College as Office Manager for the Department of Art and Art History. She graduated from Liberal Arts College in 1995 and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Technical Theater.
“I grew up in a small town and realized living in Holland that I’m not a big city person.” she explained. “I like walking down the street and meeting people you know.”
Underhill feels fortunate to be able to use her theater degree since many liberal arts students never get the chance. “I loved Hope College, but those opportunities don’t come around very often,” She said. “I feel like I’ve been preparing for this all my life.”
Although she’s only been living in Crystal Falls for a few months – and still lives out of boxes – she’s settling in.
“It’s a fun community” said Unterberg. “Crystal Falls is growing – there’s a lot to discover here.”
She was pleased to see how well the region weathered the pandemic. “I was apprehensive about taking a job in live theater after the pandemic, but everything is coming back even stronger.” she noticed.
Underhill encourages everyone to check out the Crystal Theater. “It’s unlike anything else” She adds. “Everyone must have experienced live theater at least once, and if so, come back and enjoy it.”
Underhill firmly believes that local support is essential to having local art. Community members and businesses have always been strong supporters of Crystal Theater, she noted.
“I love my patrons who come to the shows and my team of volunteers is wonderful,” She said. “Coming back to the area was great for the soul.”
For more information, a complete listing of upcoming Crystal Theater events, or to purchase tickets, visit https://thecrystaltheatre.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.