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Giving to the kids

Missoula Children's Theatre aims to teach life lessons to young actors

Missoula Children's Theatre aims to teach life lessons to young actors

January 09, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

FREDERICK, Md. - This winter, getting children to develop their life skills could end in applause.

At least that's what the folks at the Montana-based Missoula Children's Theatre are banking on. Part of Missoula's mission is to teach life skills via live theater.

The Missoula Children's Theatre will present two performances of "Robin Hood," Saturday, Jan. 17, at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in downtown Frederick.

"It's not about creating child stars, it's about developing life skills in children," said Jonna Michelson, Missoula's tour marketing director.

Here's the rub: The production will be cast almost entirely from the kids who show up to an open audition at the Weinberg on Monday, Jan. 12.

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John Healey, executive theater manager, said they're expecting to cast 50 to 60 roles.

Kids don't have to pay to participate, Healey said. Costumes, makeup - everything is provided, he said.

Healey said the audition is open to school-age kids in kindergarten through high school, though some exceptions might be made for older students.

You don't have to live in Frederick, Healey said. Everybody is welcome.

"All kids don't have this opportunity," he said.

The idea, Healey said, is to give kids a chance to show off their acting chops. In the past, child-friendly shows at the Weinberg have been chock-full of adults and thin on kid actors, Healey said. The shows that did have lots of children, he said, involved mostly dancing and singing - not much acting.

There will only be one adult from Missoula cast in the show, said actress Mandi Jung. Jung and actress Alicia Anne Lees are the two-person actor-director team sent by Missoula.

The children will get a week to rehearse - starting audition day.

Part of the theater's intentions are to use the performing arts to teach children things like team-building, things a kid won't necessarily pick up on a quiz.

"Theater teaches you how to be a person," Jung said. "They get practice dealing with life situations that they might not have experienced yet."

Jung said Missoula's production of "Robin Hood" was like a "cartoon on stage."

"It usually attracts boys, which is nice," Jung said. "'Little Mermaid' doesn't have quite the same sway."

Healey said Missoula has brought its program to the Weinberg in the past, though it's been several years since they were last there.

The company is also a regular at other theaters in and around Washington County. Jenni Hatcher, interim executive director of The Maryland Theatre, said Missoula has performed with local children in Hagerstown before. The Herald-Mail has written about the troupe's past performances at Wilson College's Laird Hall.

Michelson said Missoula is still booking shows for the next five months. She said to date, the theater company has had 1,081 tour stops in the United States.




If you go ...



WHAT: Open auditions for "Robin Hood," presented by the Missoula Children's Theatre.

WHEN: 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12. Performances are scheduled for 3 and 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17.

WHERE: Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick, Md.

COST: There is no cost to audition. Tickets to performances cost $6 for seniors and children; $10 for adults.

MORE: Auditions are open to children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Those wishing to audition must arrive at 4 p.m. and stay for the entire two-hour session. No advance preparation needed. For more information, call Weinberg at 301-600-2829 or go to www.weinbergcenter.org.

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