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Missoula Children's Theater Brings Acting Opportunities to Area Schools


January 29, 2020

Zurich Elementary students, J.J. Jendro, Nathaniel Plain Feather, Maddox Asbury, Gracie Barns, and Sydney Bowles model their make-up created during a Missoula Children's Theater Workshop.

The Emperor, his friends and subjects, and a bunch of busy Silkworms entertained audiences on Saturday, January 25 in two afternoon performances at the Lloyd Sweet Auditorium at Chinook High School when the Missoula Children's Theatre (MCT) and 36 local students presented an original musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic, The Emperor's New Clothes.

Chinook Junior High School eighth grader, Listat Pope played the leading role of the Emperor. Other featured performers included Kiera Hellman as ManyPenny, Julia Briere as Royal Scholar Roxy, and Hope Huckabee as Royal Scholar Red.

The Queens were Olivia Bartlett as Queen Air, Brooklyn Terry as Queen Fire, Jeni Mord as Queen Water, and Mara Edwards as Queen Earth. Serving the elemental royalty, the Money Council was comprised of Ashlyn Hofeldt, Lily Gregori, Lori Mord, Zoë Schofield, Sierra Weigand, and Chyler Standiford.

Amanda Mulonet-Finley was cast in the role of Gem, while the Royal Jewelers were Pepper Harwood, Cassidy Darlington, and Maysen Olson.

The character Boots was performed by Xavier Ymzon, and the Royal Cobblers were Cynnloch Gibson, Bentlie Dennis, and Akaysha Kelly.

The Royal Hatters: Aurora Crawford, Wyatt Oliver, and Mariah Huravitch were led by Brooke Fetter as Lid. Other fashion concerned characters, the Royal Tailors were captured by Cali Van Voast and Taylyn Collins, while Tayla Richman played the role of Stitch.

And finally, the Royal Silkworms were portrayed by Alajuwan Haney, Ellary Zulkey, Parker Paulson, Silas Ymzon, Teagan Britt, Ashtynn DePriest, and Hadley Hofeldt.

Because of a conflict on Saturday with the Divisional B/C Speech and Drama Tournament in Shelby, no older students were available to serve as Assistant Directors for the show.

The performance was directed by Emily Dufour and Jackie Madejski. Both directors are in their first two months with the MCT. Dufour comes to Montana from Franklin, Massachusetts. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in musical theatre from the Hartt School, the performing arts conservatory of the University of Hartford located in Connecticut.

Although Madejski is from Albion, New York, she proudly calls Washington, DC, her home and is a graduate of the Catholic University of America with a Bachelor of Music Degree in musical theatre. After applying for the residency and completing a questionnaire, the two were declared a match.

"We are working as a team since our profiles matched," Dufour said.

While the two were visiting Chinook, they stayed with host family, Ben and Patty Hall.

The version of The Emperor's New Clothes presented in Chinook was written for the stage and conceived by Jim Caron and Matt Loehrke with music and lyrics by Jim Caron, Michael McGill Greg Boris, and Amy Ellis. As the plot unfolds, the Emperor takes the advice "dress for success" to an extreme while attempting to impress new friends. When the clothes, and other people's opinions, become more important than the people of the kingdom, trouble brews.

To help their beloved Emperor find the way back to his heart, his true friends create an elaborate "birthday suit" for the Emperor to wear for his birthday parade celebration. The Emperor quickly and humbly learns that sometimes "less is more."

In addition to Saturday's shows, the MCT Directors also conducted workshops throughout the week. On Wednesday, January 22, Dufour and Madejski visited Zurich Elementary School, where they demonstrated the use and application of stage make-up.

To a group of eighteen students, the duo described makeup as the foundation and most basic visual image for all performers. After explaining that the bright lights and the distance the audience sits from the stage require that facial features get enhanced, Madejski demonstrated corrective, basic stage makeup on Gracie Barns. Madejski outlined Gracie's eyes and added color to her lips and cheeks.

Next, Dufour and Madejski demonstrated character make-up, transforming Sydney Bowles into Queen Fire and Maddox Asbury into the Emperor. Using a stipple sponge, Madejski created a bearded face on the young Asbury.

In a final demonstration, the two explained that sometimes make-up is used to create special effects, like cuts and bruises, or to advance someone's age. In that round, Madejski spun a story about J.J. Jendro's being attacked by a raccoon, giving him the bruises to show for the scuffle, and Dufour turned Nathaniel Plain Feather into a wrinkled old man.

On Thursday, January 23, Dufour and Madejski engaged first and fifth graders at Meadowlark Elementary School with a workshop on the basic tools of an actor's trade. Using observation, memorization, concentration, and imagination, the students participated in a variety of exercises that enabled them to apply the actor's tools to both performing and everyday life.

With Meadowlark third graders, the pair shared a workshop on pantomime. Students learned not only that people communicate with each other in many ways but that much of that communication is done without ever needing to speak. Experimenting with isolations, illusions, key gestures, and body language, the students crafted and told a story.

The Missoula Children's Theatre residency in Chinook was subsidized by various state and local organizations, including the Chinook Lion's Club, Chinook Community Chest, and the Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation.

Despite the low turnout for tryouts, the show was a success, according to Tammy Edwards, the local coordinator of the MCT activities.

"Although we could have cast up to 50 students for this show, the smaller cast allowed us to get to know names more quickly and to build community," Dufour claimed.

About the MCT residency, Meadowlark Elementary School Principal, Shane Bartschi said: "Missoula Children's Theater is something that we look forward to each year. It provides our students the opportunity to explore acting as well as performing in front of others. This is something that we are not able to offer during the school day. While it is only a week long, it still provides exposure to acting and performing to see whether students enjoy it. Those who do often get involved with community theatre, speech, drama or other performing opportunities as they get older. I believe it is a great experience for our students, and we are thankful to have the opportunity."


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