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Theatrical Treats

Missoula Children’s Theatre offers theater to valley schools

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Two teams of Missoula Children’s Theatre actors pulled into two different schools last week in red trucks full of costumes and stage props to give children in all grade levels a chance to perform on the stage. 

“Many schools don’t have theater programs,” tour director Nick Cartusciello explained. “We want to give them an opportunity to have an artistic outlet where they can at least try acting.”

But only about 60 costumes fit in those trucks, and in Arlee 80 plus students auditioned for parts in the Wizard of Oz.

“If they don’t get a part, we tell them that we are looking for the perfect part perfectly suited for you,” he said. “It has nothing to do with talent and it’s not personal. We encourage them to continue auditioning because next year there might be a perfect part for them.”

During the audition, students lined up by height in a large square. The process started out with each student saying their name and age like they won a trip to Disneyland.

“We are looking to see if they can speak in a loud and clear voice and have big expressive body language,” he said. “We tell them we are looking for that because it’s easier for the audience to see and hear.”

Tour director Emily Bradford showed exactly what they were looking for by demonstrating the difference between an exaggerated loud voice and a soft whisper.

“It’s hard to hear the soft voice, isn’t it?” she said.

For two hours, students took turns saying lines like, “Can I please have a pony,” singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and remembering a step turn routine. 

“We are looking for people who can listen and follow directions because we only have five days to put this together,” Cartusciello said.

Kelsey Harris, 17, is a senior this year. She performed in many plays over the years. She said without the Missoula Children’s Theatre she might have missed the opportunity to discover how much she likes acting. She likes it so much that she would like to go to college to study theater. 

“I really like to act and be on stage,” she said. “I like getting the chance to play different characters.”

Up the road in St. Ignatius, the curtains opened with “Blackbeard the Pirate” on Friday night, with 63 students working to put the show on. Tour Director Emily Bradford explained how students memorized their lines.

“It took a lot of rehearsal and study, study, study,” she said. “When you’re eating your cereal, study, study, study.”

Being on stage does more than teach kids the meaning of stage fright.

“Kids might not necessarily be good at sports or math and this can give them a sense of being part of a team, which is a good life skill,” she said. “The most important thing it instills is a sense of confidence.” 

Prestin Teigen, 8, played the part of a sailor. He explained how he remembers the lines.

“I thought of it when I was sleeping,” he said. 

Addison Arlint, 12, was a beach bum dressed in a Hawaiian shirt.

“It was hard to remember the lines at first,” she said. “On the second day it got easier.”

Tour Director Mary Kate McLaurine explained to the audience after the show that the Missoula Children’s Theatre is an international tour project that travels to 50 states, and has for the past 40 years. In just this year, tour directors will work with 65,000 children in 1,200 communities. 

Mission High School senior Lindsay Johnson played piano for the St. Ignatius production.

“Lindsay has been accompanying our Missoula Children’s Theatre shows for eight seasons,” teacher Paula Schock said. “She started playing for us when she was 9. We are so proud of her, but she is a senior and we will have to start finding someone else to play next year.” 

Other students and their roles included Dana Goss-Dickie as Blackbeard, Kaleb Durglo as Redbeard, Israel Umphrey as Yellowbeard, Sydney Castor as Bluebeard, Tristan Adams as Greybeard, and Peachfuzz was Warren Castor.

The beach bums included Breeze Clark, Tori Peterson, Leila Marsh, Addison Arlint, JoLynn Girsch and Jillian Norton.

Sailors were Connor Durglo, Prestin Teigen, Damien Durglo, Taylen Voice, Jason Brown, Kason Page, Alexis Glover, Nick Frost and DaShaunDre Steele.

Sydney Brander, Xanian Lee, Ahni Umphrey, Dylan Schock, Athena Sasser and Cassidy Orr played the part of crabs, and Sajada Lee and Jace Matt were crocodiles.

The mermaids included Lena Stamin, Sierra Girsch, Leslie Bennett, Amelia Cronk, Allison Umphrey, Paisley Couture, Natalie Helser, Livana Sasser, Laney Keast, and Emily Morigeau.

The seaweed creatures were Izabel Evans, Maysa Couture, Brynn Pule and Madyson Esslinger.

The parrots were played by Abbie Orr, Kanana Couture, Saellah Huggs, Aliya Fyant, Lola Schock, Lailla Durglo, Ashlyn Meyer, Anna Cronk, Avia Lee, Brooklyn McClure, Ananna Robine, Judea Azure, Jack Keast, Jake Helser, Sawyer Pule and Lex LaFrombois.

Keisha Dillard was Sam the Clam and an assistant director. Other assistant directors were Kellen McClure and Justin Brown. Tour Director Emily Bradford was Jolly Rodger.

In the Arlee production of The Wizard of Oz featured Megan Shick as Dorothy, Darren Marks as the Lion, Peyton Lammerding as the Tin Man and Noah Coulson as Toto. Also featured were Dalton Marks as the Professor/Wizard, Kelsey Harris as Glinda and Taylor Lammerding as the Wicked Witch. 

Elizabeth Morigeau played the Green Guard, Kameron Rubel was Major Munchkin and Charley Crawford played Farmer Munchkin. To complete the ensemble, Elina Moore, Harli Kinney, Belen Holtz, Natalie Coulson, Michelle Jury, Princess Bolen, Kolby Belcourt, Kat Coates, Drew Knoll, Bridger Smith, Mila Baldwin and Reece SpottedEagle appeared as the Winkies; Natalie Yocum, Carolina Buck, Saige Koetter, Kaylee Samsel, Errin BigCrane, Shelby Smith, Dean Greenwood, Tyler Brown, Mandy Couture and Jonas Paul as Magicians; Cheyenne Pablo, Maddie Yocum, Melaia Matt, Frankie Wright, Rylee Belcourt, Xaria Jacobson, Tucker Brown, Kyleah Brazill, Loretta Vollin, Kaylie Scott Raven Parson and Sophia Forgey as Munchkins; and Naomi Fish, Danika Jury, Aaliyah Tucker, Lilybele Buffalo, Aurora Parker, Audrina Gopher, Stephen Abu, Jack McVicker, Agnes Fleischuer, LilyAni Howard, Eli O’Neill, Madison Hanken, Rhea Abu, Moses Curtis, Tristan Fiddler, and Cayden Clark as Fierce and Ferocious Flowers.

Assistant directors were Ashley Potts, Skyler Vernon, Autumn Moran and Madison Lahaye.


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