By Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Lights, camera, action! The Missoula Children’s Theatre brought Pinocchio to town.
MCT’s mission statement is the development of life skills in children through participation in the performing arts. Through their program they provide a unique opportunity for children to learn the lessons of group dynamics while excelling as individuals.
They have been sending out two person teams to tour across the world and bring the arts to children everywhere for over 40 years. In a single year around 65,000 cast members, ages 5-18, perform before 750,000 people throughout all 50 states and 17 different countries.
“In one week we put on a full scale musical,” said Kate Kesslar, MCT tour actor and director. “We’re asking five year olds to learn to sing, dance, memorize their lines, the whole thing, in only five days and they do it!”
Due to the short production time, the directors hit the ground running at each new location. Mondays are dedicated to auditions to find the right kid for each part, she said. The rest of the week is to get in as much rehearsal time as possible. Usually they only have around 20 hours to get each group of kids up to speed.
“You learn to think on your feet,” said Kesslar. “Think fast and adapt as you figure something out, cause that’s all that you can do, the show will go on.”
Of course it’s not all just about learning lines and how to hitting marks on stage.
The theater is about so much more than just teaching a child how to act, Kesslar said. The kids learn all kinds of things during the course of the week leading up to their performance. They learn things like cooperation, following directions, listening, rising to meet a challenge, stamina, thinking outside the box and working as a team.
In addition, kids learn skills beneficial to being a good person. These skills can be essential to children growing up in military families.
“These kids move around a lot,” said Kesslar. “They don’t have time to put down roots. There might be kids who are interested in theater or interested in things that they don’t have ready access to, so this is great way that they have experience with that. They can make some connections. They can make some friends.”
Each child is treated as an important part of the overall success of the production. Whether they’re standing front and center or randomly singing and skipping across the stage, each child gets the chance to join friends in bringing Pinocchio to life for the audience.