Saturday, June 19, 2010

Something grand...MCT comes to La Grande

The Missoula Children's Theatre worked some magic in La Grande this week. Two young actors, Allison (the leprechaun) and John Thomas, assisted in their very first MCT gig by MCT veteran Samantha brought their know how, their enthusiasm, and the trademark MCT formula for success to sixty local children whose ages ranged from six to seventeen. The production was an original and very whimsical adaptation of The Princess and the Pea, created by Michael McGill.

MCT was founded in Missoula, Montana, forty years ago and now it is a world renowned organization that this year alone will bring theater to 65,000 kids in 1,200 communities in all 50 states as well as 17 countries. They train and send out pairs of actors whose focus is help teach kids life skills through the theater experience.

I was terrifically impressed by their work. The audition process alone is worth witnessing just to appreciate how seamless is their approach to both life and art. From the moment the kids walk in the door, they have begun their audition. The MCT actors initiate a series of mundane exercises, reciting names and ages and such. By degrees and according to individual inclinations, each kid realized that he was being observed not just as a performer but as a listener. The MCT actors set the tone in auditions by consistently alternating between high energy playfulness and no-nonsense attention to the rigors and requirements of working together effectively.At the end of two hours they have taken a group of sixty strangers and cast an entire show.
It was a fascinating illustration of how one can modulate between fun and focus. All week long, the kids found themselves coaxed and prodded and taxed to the limit. For the little ones especially, there were times when their weary expressions tugged at your heart. But always they rallied.

Colm had, in fact, tried to get out of going before the week began. We made him go, but kept an eye on him. No worries. He and Tess both enjoyed themselves enormously.

Part of the genius of the MCT approach is the way it provides the younger kids with lots of opportunities to observe and emulate the older ones. The cast featured some very capable youngsters, including a stellar pair playing the princess and the pea. Their inventiveness and investment proved contagious.

On the final day, the kids were delighted to finally see and wear their costumes and to get their makeup put on. Everything began to take shape. The kids began to sing with more gusto, they moved with more purpose and they smiled with conviction. They also displayed a collective discipline onstage and off - testimony to Samantha's relentless insistence on respectful listening and decorum.

Tess and Colm both became increasingly more bold and engaged as the week went on. It was great to see them work it out for themselves. By the end of the week, both kids were singing the show's tunes at home and performing their choreography just for fun. The first performance took place yesterday before a nearly full house. Everyone was charmed and even astonished by the quality of the show. As for the kids, they have a final performance this afternoon. When it's over, they will resume their summer routines, but each of them may carry some subtle sense of what if feels like to be part of something grand.
P.S. Beth, it was you who initiated the idea to bring in MCT...way to go!


Anonymous kirsten said...

I like the return to fast blogging. Don't think I haven't noticed--

6:04 PM  
Blogger Prairie Chick said...

Very nice write up, Kevin! Just one change, though. Jim Caron founded MCT, not Michael.Thanks again for dinner and all of your help this week!

6:18 PM  
Blogger K said...

thanks for the correction...I'll note it

7:26 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Awesome! Great for the kids! Great idea, Beth!

I love the expressions captured on the kids' faces. Thanks for all the photos, Kevin!

12:22 AM  

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