Zoe and Jimmy

Samantha French as Zoe, left, and Brian Boyd as Jimmy perform a scene from "No Greater Love" at the Mother Lode Theatre, 316 W. Park St., in June 2017.

Susan Fink, provided

The below article was updated to reflect that scenes from the memorial ceremony for the 1917 Granite Mountain-Speculator Mine Fire are not contained in the DVD. Instead, scenes from the memorial were shown from a separate video during the premiere as a special tribute. 

“No Greater Love” — the musical depicting the 1917 fire that took the lives of 168 miners in Butte — is leaving a hefty financial legacy on the city of Butte.

The musical’s board handed out $51,000 to Butte nonprofits Saturday. The Orphan Girl Children's Theatre, the Granite Mountain-Speculator Mine Memorial and the World Museum of Mining each received $17,000.

On top of that, the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives received $35,000 in DVDs and CDs of the “No Greater Love,” which was staged live in the Mother Lode Theatre for two nights last June. Proceeds from those sales will go to the Friends of the Archives.

The recipients were announced before about 200 people, who gathered in the Butte High auditorium Saturday to see a premiere film of the production, and to celebrate the DVD and CD release.

Jerry Sullivan, president of the board, said the money came from funds left over from fundraising for the play and ticket sales.

“It’s really a reflection of the town’s generosity,” said Sullivan, noting that individuals, businesses and philanthropists rallied to make “No Greater Love” a reality.

As for the Butte Archives gift, Sullivan said the board commissioned about 1,000 $35 “packets” containing the DVD and CD sets, along with an updated program. About 90 of the packets were sold Saturday, and the rest are available for sale at the Archives.

Friends of the Archives will soon take over administration of the DVD and CD sets, Sullivan said, along with the rights of the play.

Gary Funk, who composed and co-wrote the play, said that about a month and half before “No Greater Love” was supposed to premier on stage, the play’s steering committee was behind on fundraising, and members thought that maybe they had bitten off more than they could chew.

During that time, Funk said, a meeting for the committee began with prayers, including one in Gaelic.

“That was a pretty remarkable answer to the prayers,” said Funk, noting that “No Greater Love” ended up turning a profit — so much so that the play’s organizers were able to give back to the community.

“To have that kind of support is amazing,” said Funk.

Jackie Freeman, artistic director of the Orphan Girl Children’s Theatre, said she was told the theater would be getting a “very modest gift” Saturday, but she said she wasn’t expecting to receive $17,000.

Freeman was the stage manager of the play, and two of the theater’s actors had roles in “No Greater Love,” Taylor Garrett as Anka and Kershaw Mellott as Teddy. Paisley Wanamaker, another one of the theater’s young actors, served as an assistant stage manager.

Freeman said all three of the students want to pursue acting in the future. Being part of a high-caliber production, she said, has added fuel to the fire of their already existing passion for acting.

Gerry Walter, president of the Granite Mountain-Speculator Mine Memorial, said she was also surprised by the $17,000 the memorial received.

“I was thunderstruck. I was absolutely overcome,” said Walter.

Just days before the play’s theatrical premiere last June, the memorial hosted a ceremony to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the mining disaster. Butte’s Father Patrick Beretta spoke at the memorial, which was also attended by Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and several local leaders.

During the Saturday-night event, scenes from the memorial were also screened separate from the DVD. 

Brian Boyd played the role of Jimmy, an innocent, wide-eyed young man who arrives in Butte to work the mines.

Boyd said he and the other actors weren’t able to attend the June memorial because they had a rehearsal, so he’s glad he got a chance to see scenes from the memorial Saturday night.

He learned a lot about the disaster by acting in the play, Boyd said, but the film showed him something new.

“What I didn’t realize is how deeply felt those ties are still in the community,” said Boyd, noting that the impact of the lives lost is palpable still today, 100 years later.

Sullivan, who's also chief executive officer and chairman of Granite Mountain Bank, said he’s been on lots of boards and committees over the years, but there was something special about serving on the board of “No Greater Love.”

“There was none finer than that board of directors,” he said.

Sullivan has been corresponding with residents in Claremorris, Ireland, who possibly want to stage “No Greater Love.”

But for now the first leg of the play’s journey has come to a close.

“It was really a kind of wonderful conclusion to a year of work,” he said of Saturday night.

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Business Reporter for The Montana Standard.

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