Arts and Entertainment

Six rehearsals, one show: Missoula Children’s Theatre combines speed with quality

Center, Metairie Kilpatrick-Boe as  Pinocchio in last year’s Missoula Children’s Theatre production. - Contributed / John Sinclair
Center, Metairie Kilpatrick-Boe as Pinocchio in last year’s Missoula Children’s Theatre production.
— image credit: Contributed / John Sinclair

You only have to talk to San Juan parents to know the Missoula Children’s Theatre is on to something.

“It’s a fabulous idea,” says BooBoo Keane. Her daughter Julia has participated in past Missoula productions and so Keane has had direct experience with the company.

On paper, it looks like hard work: Two employees of the theatre hit Friday Harbor on a Sunday and in six days cast, produce and perform a finished piece of theater using upwards of 50 children.

However, Keane says that although the schedule may seem grueling, the speed is rewarding.

“They get the whole process, the audition, the show and it only takes a week.”

Keane says there is satisfaction for the participants in knowing they only have to wait a few days to see the fruits of their labor. In other theater work, this is delayed with weeks of rehearsals.

“It’s amazing what those people do in such a short amount of time.”

The company has had practice.

Missoula Children’s Theatre has been successfully touring for 35 years, since its beginnings in the early 1970s.

It seems appropriate that the inspiration for the company came in the theatrical forms of a broken down van, an accidental meeting and stormy, winter weather.

On the way to Oregon in 1970, Chicago man Jim Caron’s VW stopped running in Missoula. Waiting for repairs to be done, he found himself with spare time and on a whim auditioned for a local production of “Man of La Mancha.”

It was a fortuitous impulse as during the rehearsals he met Don Collins. The two would go on to form a theater group that performed for children.

It was a fateful trip to Miles City that saw the group evolve into

the present-day Children’s Theatre.

Caron and Collins were invited to perform “Snow White” at the Montana town. Miles City lay 500 miles from Missoula, however, and in February that was an icy, dangerous distance.

Unwilling to take responsibility for transporting the children who would play the dwarves, the directors decided to cast young people when they arrived there.

It was a bold but successful move.

The directors’ skepticism about the plan was rewarded when 450 children turned up for auditions.

It was from that flood of interest from children, parents and teachers that Missoula Children’s Theatre arose.

Since that wintery success in 1972, the company has grown. They now travel to just over 1,200 communities annually, visiting Asia and Europe as well as all 50 states.

As Scott Reilly, the company’s tour marketing associate, says, “We go wherever there is a need.”

And now, it is Friday Harbor’s turn to once again join in the fun.

The Missoula team will arrive and audition interested children on June 28, beginning at 9 a.m. in the San Juan Community Theatre.

This year’s show will be “The Amazing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.” Auditions are open to all children in grades 1-12.

The first rehearsal will be held immediately following the audition and casting. From then on, there will be practices every day through Friday, although not every child rehearses every day.

The final show, true to form, will play on the theater’s Whittier Stage the following Saturday, July 3, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets, available at the theater box office, are $19 for adults, $9 for students with $5 RUSH tickets.

Visit the box office, call 378-3210, or visit www.sjctheatre.org.

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