Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Jana Mathia
Gazette Reporter 

Missoula Children's Theater offers students opportunity

 

April 4, 2019

The St. John/Endicott student cast gathers for pictures after the final performance of the play Blackbeard on Friday, March 29.

Many of Whitman County's small schools struggle to provide students with exposure to the arts. One way of filling that gap is with a partnership with the Missoula Children's Theater, based out of Missoula, Mont., which arrives at the school and in one week auditions, rehearses and performs a theatrical production.

"Our goal is to teach kids life skills through the arts," said Lindsey Wayne, half of the tour duo that put on "Blackbeard the Pirate" with the St. John/Endicott students last week.

Wayne and her cohort Sarah Price have been doing Blackbeard since May 2018. Each MCT pair does one show for the extent of their tour. When different shows appear in the county in the same season, they are each put on by different tour pairs. Each team travels around their region in the red MCT truck, loaded with all the sets, costumes, props, makeup and scripts for their show.

"This is a very amazing and unique job," said Price.

To put on Blackbeard at SJE, the pair held auditions on Monday with rehearsal following. More rehearsals followed each day of the week and cumulated in two shows on Friday. About 18 hours of preparation go into putting on the shows, which are less than one hour long.

"It's always such a great thing," said SJE Supt. Suzanne Schmick who noted both performances were well attended.

Price and Wayne performed in Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin last summer, then Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado for the fall. For their winter tour, they are hitting Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

"We've been a lot of places," said Wayne.

They trade off in being director and Jolly Roger, the main character who tells the story throughout the play. That way, one of them is always on stage and the other always backstage.

In addition to putting on the performance, the teams do workshops at schools that request it.

"It's just another way of outreach for us," Price noted. The workshops are a way to involve the students who did not opt to be in the play. Often this exposure leads the student to participating the next time the MCT comes in.

For SJE, the experience is biannual. Schmick noted that by bringing in MCT every other year, they are able to provide the experience in a way more friendly to the school's tight budget.

The MCT team noted the students at schools that participate every other year seem to appreciate it more and the experience is special to them.

"They get so excited," Wayne said.

Despite putting on the same show week after week, things don't get stagnant. The students at each place are different and put their own spin or take on the lines. Different lines get forgotten or emphasized so Price and Wayne always have something new.

"We expect them to put in the work, but we know it's not going to go off without a hitch," Price said. Which is good for her as her favorite part of the experience is the face-paced, ever-changing atmosphere.

"I love being kept on my toes," she said.

"I love watching that growth in kids as artists and people," Wayne said.

Wayne plans to continue performing in theater and this job has given her the tools to take when she follows her goal to work on-stage in New York.

"This has been such an amazing stop on that journey," she said.

Price plans to pursue the other side of the MCT, teaching, and to get her degree and teaching certificate to teach MCT-type things in a school setting.

One of the hardest parts for the team is the casting, especially in small towns. It can be tricky because students object to being cast in the roles of the dating crocodiles when they are related or having to dance with a sibling or cousin.

As part of the MCT deal, the schools provide them a place to stay, each with their own room with a door and access to a bathroom. This had led to Price and Wayne staying in family houses, hotels, lake houses and resorts. Sometimes they have access to kitchen gear―as was the case in St. John―and other times community families feed them or they have to be more creative in how they find their meals.

At the end of the last performance, the MCT team offers one more workshop in how they fit all the set, props and costumes into their truck―a call for help in breaking things down and loading them.

Lindsay Wayne, as Jolly Roger, informs the "beach bums."

"We're both five-two, so we love having tall people come help us," Price said. They always have volunteers help with the take down. The number one question they get is 'how does it all fit?'

Not only does it fit, the play paraphernalia only takes up half of the truck, leaving the other half for the team's luggage. Once loaded, they are back on the road for the next stop, usually five or six hours away. As part of their job, they also wash the costumes and fix the set.

This was the fifth production put on by SJE students with MCT. Schmick noted what a wonderful opportunity it is for the students and issued a heartfelt thanks to all the people who helped make it possible. While not all kids want to be involved, the production gives those who do a chance to shine, especially if they do not get that chance in other aspects, like sports or FFA.

 
 

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