Tag Archives: theater

Children Shine On Stage With the Missoula Children’s Theater

4 Feb

One year ago, my daughter did something which she had never been able to do before. We’d wanted to do it before…but something always got in the way – like vacation, or busyness…or my memory.

But then, last January, she finally was able to try out and was in the Missoula Children’s Theater’s production of Hansel and Gretel.

This year, she did it again, playing the role of Martha in MCT’s The Secret Garden here in Worthington at the Memorial Auditorium.

I cannot adequately explain how great this experience is for the kids!
Here’s how it works, for those unfamiliar. Two staff members with MCT lead the production. They travel to different towns – both small and large – to put on these “residency weeks”. The interested kids show up on Monday after school. (Or, as in the case this year in Worthington, on Tuesday because on that Monday all schools across Minnesota were closed due to the extreme cold.) The kids audition and after a short dinner break, they begin rehearsals.

They continue to rehearse every day after school until 8:15 each night.

Then, on Friday and Saturday, they perform. (This year locally they only had one performance, on Saturday, again due to the lack of that Monday’s rehearsal time.)

Canadian Geese...complete with a Canadian vocabulary, eh?

Canadian Geese…complete with a Canadian vocabulary, eh?

The team comes complete with costumes, easy to manipulate and attractive sets, and all the scripts and teaching necessary for the kids to be successful. What emerges is a wonderful performance – funny, age-appropriate, cute-as-all-get-out. Kids from kindergarten through 12th grade are eligible.

It is a fabulous opportunity for kids to gain confidence through inter-personal skills, public speaking skills, and yes, even acting skills! It also gives them experience in theater and even in independence, giving each child a little shove towards self-discipline and self-awareness. They are encouraged through their team work and their personal achievements.

What garden is complete without flowers?

What garden is complete without flowers?

In a town our size, I think that pretty much everyone who auditions gets a part (in fact, they had to cut a few roles this year because there weren’t enough children), but that’s not always the case. However, auditions in and of themselves – even without success at the end – are learning experiences and can be good opportunities in learning how to handle disappointment. Kids need to learn that life doesn’t always give them what they want. The MCT website offers a little wisdom on how to handle the disappointment of a failed audition.

Sheep, foxes, squirrels, and, of course, a robin.

Sheep, foxes, squirrels, and, of course, a robin.

The Missoula Children’s Theater began the early 70’s. It is an international organization. They have around 75 people listed as Tour Staff, meaning that there are approximately 40 teams that travel around, winter and summer.

The Missoula Children’s Theater’s mission statement is,”The development of life skills in children through participation in the performing arts.”

They go on to say this: “MCT…strives to use participation in the performing arts as a vehicle to develop the life skills (social skills, communication skills, self-discipline, a strong work ethic, an understanding of the team concept and self-esteem) necessary to answer the challenges of our time.”

In other words, whatever the skill-level of your child – whether used to performing or compete novices – they can and will grow through the MTC experience.

The humans in The Secret Garden.

The humans in The Secret Garden.

As a parent, it is a thrill to see five intense days culminate in a splendid performance. I encourage everyone, with or without kids in the cast, to attend the show at the end of the week – it’s a great way to encourage the young children of your acquaintance and to spend 60 or so minutes enjoying the fun of a live performance – complete with the happy unexpected joys of children on stage!

Many thanks to Missoula Children’s Theater for their recent visit to Worthington!

Born for the stage!

Born for the stage!


Beauty and the Wicked Witch of the West

19 Jul

I'd be far more comfortable playing the Wicked Witch of the West.

Ok, so there are some things in life which sound better than they, in reality, are. Turkish Delight is one of these things. (I was brutally devastated when I first tasted real Turkish Delight, which I found in The Netherlands and bought with exceeding great joy. “WHAT?” I almost exclaimed outloud, trying hard to conceal my near-tears state of mind. “Edmund turned traitor for THIS?”) Lavender Ice Cream (from a cute little shop on Bainbridge Island, WA) is another. (“Ummm…WAY overrated!”) Asking Gretchen O’Donnell to dance and sing in a local theater version of Beauty and the Beast is another. And it’s a big one.

Now, I must admit, it’s possible that the powers that be who allowed me into this production never thought that seeing me dance was a good idea to begin with. I haven’t had the courage to ask them and I probably never will. But to me, the idea of a little dancing, a little singing, a little acting…that wasn’t so bad. I can do that! I was Malificent in our 4th grade production of Sleeping Beauty! How different can this be from that? Sure, I’m 31 years older than I was then…but hey, it’s still me…right?

Oy, vey, am I an optimist.

So, to begin with: the singing. I used to sing. I was in a girls singing group from 5th grade through 9th grade. I sang in high school choir and Women’s Chorus in college. I sang solos in church, and sang in the choir…back when churches actually had choirs. I can sing!

Well, I COULD sing. But it turns out, like any other muscle, the voice needs exercise. And, like the rest of my body, my singing muscles are scrawny and undeveloped. My voice box, lungs, and diaphragm are flabby. Probably pale and unattractive, too.

I knew this about my voice – I mean, I knew that I didn’t have the range I used to…or the breath control. But I thought that a little exercising of the muscles involved, and I’d be good to go. As it turns out, yes, I can still hit a “C” two octaves above middle “C”…but only when I’m not trying. Without thinking, without realizing, I hit it in our first practice. And everyone in the room turned to look. Yes. Everyone. I, being a person who vastly adores attention, was immensely proud as what I had accomplished dawned on me. Like I said, I wasn’t aiming for it…it just happened. I surprised even myself. I basked, for two seconds, in the glory. Then, with every eye in the room still trained on me, (and a few comments from the high schoolers and “oohs” from the little girls, and, I thought, impressed chuckles from the adults) it suddenly hit me: DID I HIT IT? OR DID I FLATTEN IT OUT LIKE A PANCAKE and THAT is why everyone is staring at me? Was I Pitchy, Dawg?! My smile faltered a little. My inner ear strove to regain what it had just heard. “I didn’t know I could do that,” I said, turning red. (A common occurrence for me.) And, it turns out, I could. I did. Though I’m not sure my tone was overly pleasing. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I checked with the music director afterwards just to make sure that I wasn’t off-key!)

The crux of the matter is, I haven’t been able to hit the note since.

“If you’re not ‘in voice’ tonight, please don’t sing the high part,” the director said at the next rehearsal, and I, coughing to prove my point, mumbled that perhaps I wouldn’t attempt such a feat. I sang the middle part. Even though I couldn’t hear it. I wimped out. In other words, I now live in fear that, what I accomplished without even meaning to, I will never accomplish again. Ever. My reignited high school dreams of being an opera star poofed out like a candle. Now I watch Mrs. Potts from afar (with undisguised envy) and am content to be one of the “needful but unnamed” village people. (Yes, every rehearsal begins with YMCA jokes and arm motions.)

To add to my humility, as previously implied, I stink as a dancer. Our choreographer, bless her heart, is being so kind to us. She totally knows what she’s doing. I, on the other hand, do better in the song where I all I have to do is sweep, smile and wave. Type casting, that is. But dancing?! And this isn’t even, like, intricate dancing. This is Step, Step, Lunge, Walk, Walk, Walk. I tripped over my shoes on the lunge. Lucy is quite impressed by my floor burn. She stares surreptitiously at it, while trying to remember what it was she was going to say before being distracted by the larger-than-a-silver-dollar red spot which glows like a neon light on my knee. “Sorry ‘bout your knee, Mom,” she says eventually, admitting that – let’s face it – it can’t be ignored. “Thanks,” I reply, laughing. “It’s not so bad.” She walks away, looking skeptical, and I continue to smile.

Because, really, I accepted long ago that I can’t dance, and I’m accepting now that I cannot sing that well either, but I’m having fun doing this with my husband and our daughter, Katie, and that, in the long run, is worth all my failures on stage. (For the record, my husband is way better at the dancing than I am. AND he is a wonderful sport to be doing this. He deserves a medal.)

So long as I can remember the words and keep from singing Belle’s parts by mistake (which I’ve been singing for years every time I watch the DVD and it’s a hard habit to break) then I’ll be okay. But if you’re yearning to catch a high note from the stoop-sweeping townsperson, don’t strain yourself. She’ll be the one lurching in the shadows, dreaming of the day she can play The Wicked Witch of the West…who doesn’t sing…or dance…but she does get to wear some serious make up. (“I’ll get you my pretty! And your little dog, too!”)

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