Play rehearsal
The queen of hearts , Catherine Bernhardt, leads her minions as they chant, "Cut off their heads! Cut off their heads!" in a rehearsal. In the performance, the minions wore the appropriate card costumes

FORT SILL, Okla. - Saturday’s “Alice in Wonderland” play, performed by 45 local children from ages 5 to 17, was only possible because children don’t realize that casting, rehearsing and performing a play in five days is impossible, said one of the Missoula Children’s Theatre actor/directors.

“If a bunch of professional actors were asked to put on an hour-long musical with one week to rehearse, they would say it’s impossible, but kids under 18 will do it every week,” said Ted Drury. “It is fun for them, they get to meet a lot of other kids. and they can ham it up on stage.”

Drury and Bridget Lachowsky are one of 46 two-person teams employed by Missoula Children’s Theatre, a nationally acclaimed organization, which travels around the worlds to focus on children’s theater with PROPS, or Performances, Recitals, Orchestration, Plays and Stagecraft. The goal of PROPS is to develop life skills in young people through participation in the performing arts.

The two professionals from MCT taught all aspects of the theater, including auditioning, role playing, stage craft, makeup, sound design, and costume and set design.

The show is written with a lot of different characters and types of parts so they can find a part for anyone.

“There are bigger, harder roles for the more advanced and outgoing kids and smaller roles for younger kids or kids who have never acted before. But what we love to find is kids who have never done theatre before, and we give them hard parts and they do great,” said Bridget. “They come out of their shells and really shine.”

Drury said one of the positives of this job was finding little gems of talent in children.
“That’s the great thing about this company,” she said. “We go to a lot of art-starved communities and a lot of the places we go to we are the only theater the kids will ever experience and it’s just great to see that light shine out when they realize that they can be good at other things.

“It’s a huge confidence boost for the kids because they are getting up on stage and performing this show, though it’s scary at first, when the audience applauds they feel good about themselves. In the week we are here, they might not even realize they have more confidence. It just shows in the way they perform in choir or other things,” she said.

Drury said the great thing about doing “Alice in Wonderland” is the story is what he grew up on.“It was one of the best books I ever read,” he said. “The shows are for everyone, and we love to make them feel included in the group.

According to Lachowsky, MCT has summer camps in Montana for those kids who seriously want to pursue acting as a career. The camps are called Next Step Prep, a program for those communities that don’t have any college preparatory theater courses. The camps prepare budding actors for for college and professional auditions and acting.

Ashley Donovan, who found out about the program while working as a HIRED! apprentice for Child and Youth Services, said “My mom and I were both working on post and thought it would be fun for me to do, since I love acting,” she said. “I auditioned for the play because I wanted to be Alice.”

Donovan did get the title role and admits it was difficult to learn all the lines since she had the most.“I go through my lines at home every night. It’s hard but it’s worth it. I’ve made a lot of friends during the week and it built up my self-confidence,” she said.

Page last updated Fri June 24th, 2011 at 00:00