SALT LAKE CITY — Saint Vincent de Paul School students in kindergarten through 8th grade joined the knights and squires of the Round Table to perform Missoula Children’s "King Arthur’s Quest," on April 21. Camelot’s favorite characters: Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, Raven Taleisin, Lancelot and others came alive with this Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT) production.
MCT, the nation’s largest, non-profit touring children’s theater, has been touring for 40 years. A tour team of two artists/directors arrives with a set, lights, costumes, props and make-up – everything it takes to put on a play except the cast. This year, 65,000 children in 1,300 communities in all 50 states and 17 countries will participate in an MCT Tour Residency.
Also included in the residency are three enrichment workshops presented by the tour actor/directors. This year St. Vincent students enjoyed workshops that emphasized harnessing their creativity, mime and acting skills and using their five senses.
The tour team held open auditions at St. Vincent School on April 16 and cast 58 students to perform in "King Arthur’s Quest." The students who got parts then rehearsed extensively after school for a week before two public performances were presented.
For the past 12 years St. Vincent students have participated in MCT. The cost is $3,100 for a theater experience in which over 25 percent of St. Vincent students participate. The cost is defrayed by ticket sales of the two performances and sponsors. The best thing, according to St. Vincent teachers, is that parent volunteers conduct the entire week, including chaperoning rehearsals, feeding and housing the tour directors for the week, ticket sales, costume and make-up support.
"We’re grateful that we can offer this experience to our students," said Principal Mark Longe. "MCT brings theater into our elementary school. It builds self-esteem and allows our students to feel the joy of entertaining people. After being exposed to the arts, many students continue on in the performing arts at the high school level."
According to parent volunteer Michele Elder, "It’s amazing what they do in a week’s time! It’s an incredible experience that builds self-confidence in our kids."
Eighth-grader Micki Martinez is in her eighth year of performances with MCT at St. Vincent. She is a very diverse actress because she has played a male role in six of the eight plays, only twice playing a female role. Last year was her biggest role: Jim Hawkins in "Treasure Island." Her favorite play was "Pinocchio" because of the partner she had and it was one of the few female roles she landed.
MCT offers "great experiences and seeing all of the different students from all the grades working together for a common purpose," Martinez said.
Rebecca Henkel, another eighth-grader, has had roles in seven MCT plays. "I love it," she said. "I have learned a lot about acting, the theatrical terms, stage lighting and make-up." Her role as Guinevere in "King Arthur’s Quest" was her biggest role yet, but her favorite play was "Treasure Island."
Sixth-grader Carson Butterfield made his debut with "King Arthur’s Quest." "I thought it might be a little boring but actually turned out to be real fun," said Butterfield, who landed the lead role as King Arthur. "I have learned how to speak clearly, and am really enjoying being part of the play."