By Layne Farris
Missoula Children’s Theater opened their doors of the MCT Center for the Performing Arts in 1998. Jim Caron, an unemployed actor, was searching for a mission in life, on his way from Chicago to a friend’s wedding in Oregon when his aging Volkswagen van broke down. The nearest service station was – fortunately or fatefully – in Missoula, Mont. While waiting for the van to be patched together, Jim noticed an audition poster for Man of La Mancha. Just for fun, he auditioned and was cast in the role of “Sancho.” He developed an instant and lasting friendship with Don Collins, who played Don Quixote, and together they organized a company of adults to perform plays for children on a make-shift stage in a local movie theater. Soon, nearby Montana and Idaho communities requested performances of their own.
During the early seventies, the company began casting kids when it seemed appropriate, such as in Hansel and Gretel or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1972, when February performances of Snow White were booked in Miles City, an icy 500 miles from Missoula, Jim and the other directors were not comfortable taking the journey with seven children aboard and made a risky decision of casting the dwarfs from children in Miles City. They were astonished when 450 children arrived for auditions.
The lessons learned in those early days, especially the rewards of involving children as cast members, set the stage for today’s International Tour, Performing Arts Camps, a strong local children’s season, Missoula Community Theater, and the magnificent home base facility that MCT is proud to call home. They bring the arts to all 50 states, 5 Canadians Provinces and 16 countries. They want to reach the small communities that have few creative outlets or resources for their children. They want to provide access for places that have none. Helping their country’s children grow into confident, successful citizens using the positive results of their programs is what they envision. Kids are kids, no matter where they grow up, they all have something in common: a desire for opportunities to express themselves, learn and have fun doing it, and that is where MCT comes in.
Information from the MCT web site.