On June 18th, a two person actor/director team from the renowned Missoula Children’s Theater (MCT), will descend on the Paramount Theater with scenery, costumes, props, lights and make-up to train young wanna be Thespians and put on a musical in one week. Yeah, right! Even the most seasoned performer will tell you it is nearly impossible to put up a quality full-blown production in just six days. But amazingly it happens due to MCT’s expertise and tried formula for success.
MCT co-founders Jim Caron and Don Collins started the educational residencies 37 years ago when they needed seven dwarves for a touring production of Snow White and were uncomfortable traveling long distances with children in tow. “Now MCT has 47 actor/director teams who visit over 1,200 communities in all 50 states and 16 foreign countries working with about 65,000 kids who perform for about 750,000 collective audience members,” says Chelle Robinson, Tour Marketing Associate at MCT.
The program is more popular than ever as economically challenged school systems saddled with pressure to perform on SOL’s are cutting performing arts programs. “We are filled to capacity for both residencies this summer with a substantial waiting list for each,” says Paramount Theater Education Coordinator, Cathy von Storch who brought MCT to the Paramount in 2009 where it quickly doubled in size from one week–long residency to two. “MCT’s programs offer kids the chance to spark creative expression and learn commitment, teamwork, focus and follow through,” says Robinson of the intrinsic value in musical theater education. Sophia Brook (13) and her sister Chloe (11) have each been participating in the MCT program since 1st grade. “It’s a good opportunity for me to push myself to see what I’m capable of,” Sophia says. For children who may not crave the limelight but enjoy being part of the creative process MCT offers Assistant Director positions. Marc Rabourdin, 14, enjoys working with the technical aspects of the MCT productions. He says, “I’m not really into being an actor, but I really like the chance to learn the stuff behind the scenes, like sound and lighting.”
One hundred twenty local children (grades 1-12) will participate in performances of The Frog Prince and Hansel and Gretel while kids who attend various other summer programs like the Boys and Girls Club will benefit from six individual drama workshops offered by the visiting MCT professionals. Lisa Brook, mother of Sophie and Chloe summarizes, “Our girls have been doing MCT shows for 7 years now, and every time, I am amazed to see everything come together at the end. Every year we look forward to the new production and are never disappointed.”
Missoula Childrens Theatre will hold a public performance of The Frog Prince on June 23 and Hansel and Gretel on June 30. More information can be found at theparamount.net.