Thespians get early start

Missoula Children's Theatre experience introduces children to theater technique

Missoula Children's Theatre experience introduces children to theater technique

July 15, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

Rushing about The Maryland Theatre stage, waving their arms in extreme pantomime, Megan Stanton and Zachary Koval explained to 37 Tri-State-area kids the difference between "silent" and "quiet."

Quiet is hushed whispers used to create a stage effect, Stanton said.

Silent is movement and expression that doesn't create an audible sound.

The lesson in theater technique - and in discipline for the assembled children ages 5 through 16 - was the first in the weeklong Missoula Children's Theatre experience, held this week. On Saturday the troupe will perform "The Jungle Book" for the public at the Hagerstown theater.

"Kids are really sponges," said the effervescent Stanton, 21, co-director of Missoula's version of "The Jungle Book." "They accomplish more than you would ever think" in one week.


On Sunday, Stanton and Koval, 22, arrived in Hagerstown, their red Ford Ranger filled with costumes, props and production equipment to put on a show within six days.

Auditions started at 9 a.m. Monday and by noon, dozens of children were learning songs, dances and lines for their various parts.

Laurel Kays, 13, of Williamsport, landed the role of Mowgli, the "man-cub" (in this case, girl-cub) who experiences multiple adventures in the jungle.

Laurel has participated in Missoula Children's Theatre experiences since she was 5 years old and said the weeklong production is "always really fun."

"I think this makes you come out more," added Carlee Harbaugh, 14, of Williamsport, who is participating for the first time. "You can be better at speaking out."

While Stanton and Koval spent the week preparing the 37 actors and actresses for two productions, they made time to teach respect, confidence and stage presence.

"The theory is that the way we have it set up, you get to see more of the kids," Stanton says. The Missoula model strives to highlight every child in the shows, giving each a moment to shine.

"We want (the kids) to succeed. This is for them," Koval added.

"All kids can get something out of it," Stanton said.

Koval stressed that especially quiet children can get something out of it.

"We think it's just as important for the really shy kid to say his one line," Stanton explained.

Jessica Snyder, 10, of Frederick, Md., looks forward to playing Kaa, the crafty jungle snake. She will be one of five kids to put on a winding snake costume, like a Chinese New Year dragon.

"I like being in front of people, being able to act," Jessica said.

Jessica has performed in multiple theater productions and in a short film. She said the Missoula program was particularly inviting since the audition didn't require advance preparation. Instead, participants walked on stage and walked off with a part to play.

For Jessica, the best part of acting is "knowing that the stage is open to you and that everyone is paying attention when you deliver your lines."

"You can't take away the magic you feel when you say those lines," she said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Missoula Children's Theatre presents "The Jungle Book"

WHEN: 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 16

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21-27 S. Potomac St.

COST: $15; 12 and younger, $10

MORE: For more information or to purchase tickets call 301-790-3500 or go to

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