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There’s no place like home . . . for putting on a play

Article and photos by Lisa Crockett and Dave Tweed

Kids in Castle Pines produced a play last month, an original version of “The Wizard of Oz,” in just under a week. As part of the Missoula Children’s Theater (MCT) Summer Tour – which visits cities throughout the U.S. for a week at a time – kids were able to take a crash course in stage performance.

Like the cyclone at the center of the play, things happened quickly; casting took place on Monday, and by Saturday the cast of 53 players was ready to take their bow. Doing a play complete with costumes, lighting, and musical numbers is an ambitious undertaking, but participants said they didn’t feel rushed, just pleasantly challenged.

“I thought it would be really hard,” said Alaina Sampson, a Castle Pines eighth grader who played the part of Dorothy. “But, it was easier than I expected. We did so many fun things to help us learn our parts and I had a great time. I especially liked meeting new people while I did this.”

Organization is key to the success of the group. Simple scenery is made from fabric and PVC pipes, which is easy to assemble and disassemble. Costumes feature adjustable waistbands and Velcro to make fittings a snap. And when it comes to teaching parts to the kids, whose ages range from 5 to 17, the motto is “divide and conquer.”

“We group the kids by age and then teach them what they need to learn in about two hours,” said Chris Wilkinson, an actor and Iowa native who works for MCT and who directed the production along with fellow MCT artist Theresa Egloff. “By Wednesday, we’re running the show. I love doing this program because it really helps kids and has the potential to change their lives.”

That potential for change was what motivated the board of the Castle Pines Arts and Cultural Foundation (CPACF), along with Cherokee Castle and Ranch, to bring MCT to Castle Pines. Cheryl McGovern, who had worked with MCT in the past and who is a member of the CPACF Board, spent the week at Rocky Heights Middle School with MCT, volunteering her time to make the production possible.

“This really was a community effort,” said McGovern. “This program is really a confidence builder for the kids; I’ve seen kids blossom in this program. We had help from the school, from the community, and from the host families who housed the directors for the week. It’s been great, and we really hope it becomes and annual event.”




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