HOW ENTHUSIASTICALLY CAN a child say just a single number?
Guaranteed, Lindsey Wayne and Sarah Price of Missoula Children’s Theatre know a thing or two about it.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Wayne and Price, both in their early 20s, met with 71 West End children in the Forks School Commons building to begin their week of rehearsals that will culminate in two productions of “Blackbeard the Pirate” on Saturday.
Performances are this Saturday at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Tickets are sold at the door: kids younger than 2 are free, tickets are $6 for kids 3 to 17 and $8 for those 18 and older.
For adults attending both performances, there are $12 tickets to include both shows.
They have just five days of preparation for 64 parts played by kids ranging in ages from 5 to 18.
Part of getting the kids used to receiving and following directions was having the kids line up according to size and enthusiastically count off. I was amazed at how exciting a number could sound, especially 49.
However, the line-up and numbers came only after the actor-director pair made sure all kids understood the meaning and application of the word “commitment” as it applies for this production.
Missoula Children’s Theatre sends out tour actor-director pairs, like Price and Wayne, who travel from their home base in Montana in a red Ford F-150 to bring a professional theater experience to communities around the world, mostly North America.
Wayne said, “I love theater and I was lucky enough to take acting since I was young, and I am so happy to be able to give other kids the same kind of opportunities I had when I was young.”
Locally, Jody Cook took an official position to lend support to the traveling duo.
Cook is an eighth-grade science teacher for Forks Middle School who has classes around 25 children, so I wasn’t at all surprised when she said, “I can handle the kids.”
Though it’s Cook’s fourth year of helping, she recalls, “I was amazed when I first heard about it — two people who teach 60-plus kids to put on a show with singing and dancing in a week.”
“It’s wonderful to see a kid at the audition and then see the same kid at the end of the week,” Cook commented, adding “They’ve changed so much and their confidence has grown.”
Cook said that the Quileute Valley School District has paid for this year’s production, “I think it’s around $5,000 to $6,000.”
Riley Wallace of the fourth grade has been part of the Missoula theater experience for the past two years. She said she wasn’t nervous and her body language said the same.
Wallace played Damsel No. 5 in last year’s production of “King Arthur,” having a few speaking lines and taking part in a song.
“I like that you basically just get to be yourself and being up on stage getting to show people what you’re made of,” Wallace said.
Her mom, Natalie, smiled as she watched the kids audition and said of Riley, “She has fun every year, so it’s fun to watch her have fun.”
As the audition carried on, Price and Wayne walked the inside of the circle of kids with their clipboards, nearly always back-to-back so as to keep an eye on all the children.
Keeping the kids in one big circle, they gave individual lines to the kids in smaller groups, like “I’m the toughest person on this side of the street,” for the oldest and, “Listen here, Buster,” to the youngest.
Clearly the choice of lines allowed for all kids to show their inner pirate.
Wayne showed and then led groups of kids in a simple dance, followed by singing rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
All of this bridled enthusiasm will progress through the week with practices after school every day for four and a half hours.
There are parts for pirates, of course, but also mermaids, parrots, crocodiles, “crabby, crabby crabs,” beach bums, naval sailors and seaweed creatures.
Zorina Barker has lived on the West End for most of her life. She is married to a Forks native who works in the timber industry. Both of her kids have been home-schooled in the wilds of the Sol Duc Valley. She can be reached at 360-461-7928 or [email protected]
West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be Feb. 5.