Angela Billadeau

Angela Billadeau plays Madge Duggan, wife of Manus Duggan, the hero who tried to save lives in the 1917 mine fire in Butte, in the production of "No Greater Love."

Susan Fink, provided

Gary Funk said when theater workers began dismantling the set of “No Greater Love” last summer it was like waking up from a dream.

The musical, which brought to life in theatrical form the Granite Mountain-Speculator fire that killed 168 of Butte’s miners in 1917, marked the culmination of months of work. The play’s steering committee had tirelessly raised the money for the $135,000-budget production, while Funk co-wrote, directed and composed the musical, putting together a cast of 30, local schoolchildren and well-seasoned actors among them.

“No Greater Love” was staged twice in June to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the mining disaster, but the June performances aren’t the last chapter in the story of “No Greater Love.”

The musical will live on in the form of a film and CD set, which the organizers of “No Greater Love” have created using recordings of the two live performances and a dress rehearsal of the play.

The nonprofit board for “No Greater Love” plans to release the DVD and CD set during what it’s calling a “world premiere” of the film’s release, to be held Dec. 2 in the auditorium of Butte High School.

During the event, said Board President Jerry Sullivan, the film will be screened and attendees will be able to purchase a package containing the DVD, CDs and an updated program for “No Greater Love” for $35. All proceeds will go to the Friends of the Archives — a nonprofit that raises money on behalf of the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives — who will assume oversight of “No Greater Love” after the board’s nonprofit status expires.

Dick Maney directed the film version of “No Greater Love.”

The Butte-born filmmaker said that creating the on-screen version of “No Greater Love” was a task that required hundreds of hours to complete.

Maney said by phone Tuesday he created the film using three separate cameras capable of producing an ultra high-definition picture, along with a boom mic and 32 audio channels, including body microphones worn by actors.

Maney filmed a dress rehearsal for “No Greater Love” to create the scenes for the DVD, but the director said he and Funk wanted the very best sound for the film.

“When you deal with musical performance, you’ve got to have good audio,” said Maney.

To do that, Maney said, he sourced audio from the live performances in addition to the dress rehearsals and painstakingly stitched it all together, making sure the actors' lips synced up with the sound.

“It took several months to put this together,” he said, pointing out that he actually had 96 audio sources to choose from when you add it all together.

To create the CDs Maney enlisted the help of a Bozeman company that mixed the audio files together to come up with the best possible audio version of “No Greater Love.”

Although creating the CD and DVD sets was a lot of work, Maney said immortalizing “No Greater Love” in film and audio form was well worth the effort.

“These people were genuine heroes,” said Maney, speaking of the miners who lost their lives 100 years ago.

Funk says the play’s title, “No Greater Love,” speaks to a community whose residents take care of their own, both in the aftermath of the 1917 disaster and in modern day.

“We belong to each other,” he said.

In the spirit of giving, attendees to the Dec. 2 film premiere will be able to attend free, but will also have the opportunity to donate to Action Inc. and the Butte Food Bank during the event. Similarly, money left over from ticket sales and sponsorship of “No Greater Love” will be turned into grants and donated to a group of Butte organizations. The recipients will be announced during the event.

“Now we can say thank you (to the Butte community) in a very material and heartfelt way,” said Funk.

Funk said he was a bit sad to see the set for “No Greater Love” dismantled in June. “But that’s the way life goes. It’s part of the life cycle,” he said

He said being able to participate in the creation of “No Greater Love” was one of the most rewarding experiences of his career because it was a musical by Butte and for Butte.

“They wanted to inhale it,” he said of audience members. “Make it a part of themselves.”

After it was all over, Funk said, he went to the Mother Lode and sat down as the set was being hauled away.

“I just watched and listened,” he said. “It was like a dream that was coming slowly to a close.”

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for The Montana Standard.

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