Missoula Theater, Optional Education Program students to unveil play in Port Townsend on Friday
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Third-grader Henri Bothell, left, and fourth-grader Macy Smith, both 9, practice during a rehearsal for “Blackbeard the Pirate” on Tuesday. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Some 50 students will put on a production this weekend with the help of a traveling theater troupe.

For at least 15 years, the Missoula Theater has pulled into town in a trailer filled with props and scenery, with the purpose of presenting an entire production in a week's time.

The troupe, represented by actors Jeremy Cunningham and Jennifer Wills, arrived Sunday, held auditions Monday and began rehearsing a production of “Blackbeard the Pirate” for two performances this weekend.

“Blackbeard the Pirate” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday in the Port Townsend High School Auditorium, 1500 Van Ness St.

Tickets are $10 and are available at the Food Co-op, 414 Kearney St., Quimper Sound, 230 Taylor St., and at the door.

The players are all students from the Optional Education Program, generally known as OPEPO.

They play various roles from Blackbeard to parrots, crabs and fish.

“We come to a different town every week,” Cunningham said.

“As long as we have the time, the kids and a place to rehearse and perform, we do the rest.

The point is to develop life skills, Cunningham added.

“They apply themselves all week long, work really hard, learn their lines and blocking and there is a great big payoff.

“We hope they can apply these concepts to the rest of their lives, that if they work hard enough, do their homework, there will be a payoff for them.”

Some of the students already get it.

“It feels like a real play, not like the plays that you put on in your back yard or on the playground or something,” said Una McFadden, 8, who is in the second grade.

Added fellow second grader Tuva Hoyer, also 8: “It's fun because you get to work with people who are really good.”

“For the first few scenes, I'm really freaked out, then I get used to it,” said third grader Max Allworth-Miles, 9, who performed in “The Pied Piper” last year.

Cunningham and Wills, who are married, are one of about 50 teams that travel the world, stopping in a town, putting on a play and leaving a week later.

“This is a great job,” Cunningham said.

“We get to play with kids all day and are working in the theater, which is a really great thing to be able to say.”

They charge about $2,700, according to Laura Rust, who is responsible for the event's publicity, which is earned from ticket sales and fundraising.

“We take all the money we get from ticket sales and contributions and it goes directly to next year's program,” she said.

OPEPO is an alternative multi-age program where students work cooperatively in a small group with two teacher facilitators and involves parents to a greater degree than the standard classroom, Rust said.

For more information call 360-732-0083.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 04. 2014 7:37PM
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