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Fall Arts Kids - Missoula Children's Theater 

by Ted S. McGregor Jr.

If there's a kid anywhere in the world with an ounce of stage talent, chances are the Missoula Children's Theater will find him or her. That's because, despite being based in Montana, the theater has a presence in all 50 states and well over 25 countries. The theater visits more than 100 communities in Washington state and Idaho alone.

"The biggest thing we do is our tour," says Executive Director Jim Caron. "We go to a community for a week's time with two directors, we audition and cast 55-60 local children, rehearse them intensely and then they perform. We'll do that over 1,000 times throughout the world this year."

It's the largest children's theater company in the country -- possibly the world. But Caron says the Missoula Children's Theater didn't set out to become this way.

"It began as a company of adults doing plays for kids, and we started using kids as leads for Hansel and Gretel or Snow White," Caron explains. He recalls how, in 1970, a booking in Miles City, Mont., during the dead of winter created the need for the theater company to begin recruiting children in the small towns where they traveled.

"We didn't like the idea of dragging the seven kids who played the Seven Dwarves across Montana in the winter, so we went to Miles City with the idea that we'd train some local kids for the roles. We walked into the gym and found 450 children who wanted to audition. We narrowed it down, but the big discovery was that it was primarily the rural communities where kids were hungry for professionally guided arts experiences."

Thus the Missoula Children's Theater was born. Now the company boasts extensive tours, camps and multiple community theater events throughout the year, all over the world. Around 65,000 children perform in the company's shows. Children in the Inland Northwest will have plenty of opportunities to audition and practice with the theater company. Here are some of the dates the Missoula Children's Theater will be in the region this fall; check for future dates. (The plays' performance runs begin about a week after rehearsals start.)

Beginning Oct. 2, the theater company will be at Washington State University in Pullman, auditioning children for the local performance of Tales of Hans Christian Andersen, (contact Russ Driver, 509-335-2241); on Oct. 11, Hutton Elementary PTA in Spokane will host the theater, which will cast local kids in the Frog Prince, (contact Pam Novell, 443-1632); Oct. 23, the company will be in Newport to work with the organization CREATE and find local children for Hansel and Gretel, (contact Janet Kiser Lambarti, 509-447-2401); on Nov. 1, the theater company will be in Deer Park at Arcadia Elementary auditioning children for Hansel and Gretel (call Laurie Otteson, 464-5700); on Nov. 8, the company will hold auditions through the Garfield School District for Hansel and Gretel (contact Bill La Munyan, 635-1331); on Nov. 15, children can audition with the theater company for the Frog Prince in Spokane at St. Mary's Catholic School (contact Kathy Dondero, 924-4300 ext. 25); and on Dec. 12, the theater company will begin auditions for Hansel and Gretel in Spokane at Franklin Elementary School (contact Mary Seeman, 354-2620).

Publication date: 09/16/04

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