Jennifer Asebrook says a love of theater has always been behind her work at the Whitefish Theatre Co.
“I’ve never been drawn to be on stage, but I love seeing music and theater live,” she said. “I’ve always been a patron of the arts, and when we first moved here, we got a season pass.”
Asebrook took over at the beginning of the year as the new executive director for WTC. She’s served as the nonprofit’s development director since 2013.
Gayle MacLaren, executive director since 2014 and a member of the WTC staff since 1999, has remained with the theater in the part-time position as operations manager.
Asebrook says it’s a transition that WTC has been planning for more than a year as she looked to take on more responsibility, while MacLaren sought a role that would allow her to be semi-retired.
“My new position allows me to semi-retire but still spend time in a place that I love and with community that I love to see,” MacLaren said. “I was not ready to completely leave WTC and these staff changes will allow me to do all the fun things that I enjoy here, while making sure this transition goes smoothly.”
While unusual for an executive director to remain, while a new one takes over leadership, Asebrook says it allows for the WTC staff to remain intact while MacLaren serves as a mentor to her in the transition.
“I’m thrilled to take over a longterm institution like the Whitefish Theatre Company,” Asebrook said.
Asebrook moved to the Flathead Valley in 1993 to work in Glacier National Park. She met her husband Richard Menicke in Glacier, and today they have two sons, Sam and Gabe.
While serving as development director for WTC, she also worked as a botanist for Glacier from 1993 to 2019. She has degrees in environmental science from Wesleyan University and plant ecology from Duke University.
Working seasonally gave her the chance to seek other opportunities to stay busy in the winter. She started out doing marketing and public relations at the theater, and then her role grew to grant writing and finances, among other duties.
“It was an opportunity that turned into my passion,” she said. “I love the arts and the opportunity to work here part-time was perfect. I’ve enjoyed being part of the community and having the opportunity to bring live performances to people in a digital world.”
Asebrook says one of her favorite musical performances hosted by WTC was the Ukrainian music ensemble DahkaBrahka in 2016. None of the performers spoke English, and yet a connection was formed.
“It was so unexpected,” she said. “The audience all became connected with the music — that’s the perfect example of what we’re trying to do here.”
No matter the play or reading, musical or dance group, up on stage, the intent is to provide a theater experience that sometimes is funny or thought-provoking or just enjoyable.
“On some basic level we’re a place focused on the connectivity of the community,” she said. “We’re a diverse group of people coming together.”
Asebrook says she’s met many people through the theater she wouldn’t have otherwise, and also has watched friendships form between cast and crews of certain plays.
“We’re a place where the community can come together through the arts,” she said.
The Whitefish Theatre Company is half way through their 2019-2020 season. For more information on remaining shows in the season, auditions, and summer camps, visit their website at whitefishtheatreco.org.