Making Magic with Communities
MCT is Theatre for the community, by the community! Ok, that’s all well and good, but what IS MCT? Is it the Missoula Children’s Theatre, recognized across the country and throughout the world as the premier group that brings performing arts opportunities to kids who might not otherwise have access? Or, is it the Missoula Community Theatre which offers a full season of mainstage productions each year, with a local cast of volunteer adult and children actors and crew? Quite simply, it is both! MCT, Inc. is the umbrella organization which sits atop these two distinct programs.
Within our company brochure you’ll find this explanation: MCT, Inc. is a non-profit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors. We are driven by our mission, which is the development of life skills in children of all ages through participation in the performing arts. As well, our collective vision is to foster creativity and enhance innate capabilities in individuals all over the world. We do this by providing access to community-driven performing arts experiences. This is accomplished in a huge variety of ways, both in Missoula, Montana and in seventeen countries around the world.
The Missoula Children’s Theatre International Tour will visit approximately 1,200 communities this year, when the signature Little Red Truck pulls into town, packed with duffels and boxes, props and make-up, scripts and costumes, scenery, and one very special ingredient: a little Missoula magic! With few exceptions, every Monday somewhere in the United States, Canada, and overseas, a group of school-aged children gather in a school gymnasium, multi-purpose room, local church basement, movie theatre on a US military installation, or even a playground. They come in anticipation that something special may happen; they may get a part in a play. And not just any play—an original Missoula Children’s Theatre musical that has roles for 50-60 kids on stage and a handful of assistant directors. Every single Monday audition is unique. Each Missoula team (composed of two professional Tour Actor/Directors) is different, and the numbers of kids who turn out for the audition varies. In some towns there may be 50; in others, 150. There may be more, and there may be less; but after the two-hour audition process, the cast of 50-60 is announced and rehearsals begin immediately. As early as Friday afternoon, that cast is performing an hour-long, full-scale musical for their peers, teachers, parents, grandparents, and the owner of the restaurant down the street–for their community. And there’s the magic!
The Missoula Community Theatre season offers local audiences a variety of musical comedies and dramas (this year’s line-up features Mary Poppins and Sweeney Todd—The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), and straight (non-musical) shows each year. The casts and running crews are all volunteers who get involved for so many reasons: to make new friends, to brush up on skills that sat idle while raising kids, or to use the acting/vocal skills they possess, but are unable to belt out during their “day job” at the accounting firm or grocery store where they work. During the 6-8 weeks of evening and weekend rehearsals, they learn something new about themselves, their cast mates, the technical side of theatre, and the importance of teamwork. It may not even cross their mind, but as they start posting rehearsal photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, they continue to create something bigger than themselves. It’s no longer just a network of people, but a new “community.”
In 2011, MCT’s Executive Director, Michael McGill, received this note: “My child has autism….I don’t get to go to theatre events with her very often. That’s one of those things…have you ever considered doing an adaptive show for people on the autism spectrum?” Thanks to a partnership with several local organizations, and the tremendous spirit of the cast members, the 5th annual adapted performance for people living on the autism spectrum will be a special evening of Mary Poppins in May. The house lights remain on, the orchestra and cast lower the volume, and volunteers use special glow sticks to signal an upcoming loud noise. The audience is invited to get up and move around if needed, and families come together to enjoy an evening of theatre. We hope that as families become more comfortable attending shows with these special adjustments, they will eventually feel more comfortable making reservations for a traditional performance, while leaving their personal reservations at home. Doug Doty of the Montana Autism Education Project told us, “I think it’s important for families, first of all. Other people have kids on the autism spectrum here. If you’re going to a movie or play, they may continue to talk or make noise or rock. This is an opportunity where people are going to say, ‘Yeah, whatever—my kid does that, too.’”
Through MCT’s two major programs, we entertain in Missoula, while reaching out past our neighborhood to all 50 states, Canada, and more than 15 foreign countries with the Missoula Children’s Theatre International Tour. If you spot an MCT Little Red Truck in your town, but haven’t seen one of our shows, check out a performance starring 50-60 kids from YOUR community as they act, sing, and dance in a live musical. If this article is the first time you’ve heard about MCT, we invite you to learn more on our website MCTinc.org. “Like” us on Facebook, “follow” us on Instagram and Twitter, or just go old-school and give us a call! We would love to bring our unique educational, entertaining, and enriching program to your school, your arts council, or the parks and rec program in your community. Together, we might just make a little magic!
About the Author
Terri Elander is the International/Public Relations Director for MCT, Inc. She manages the overseas touring for the Missoula Children’s Theatre and also serves on the local marketing team for programs in Missoula. Her first involvement with the company was as a volunteer, when in 1988 she was cast in the title role of a Missoula Community Theatre production. It was her first experience with MCT magic!
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