By Natalie MAIER
For the past seven years, Mountain Avenue Elementary School has hosted the Missoula’s Children’s Theatre (MCT), an international non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the performing arts to elementary schools across the globe. Based in Missoula, Mont., MCT has been around for over 40 years. In 2012, more than 65,000 children in grades kindergarten through sixth were involved with MCT programs. At Mountain Avenue, the PTA sponsors the program.
The touring theatre program arrived on Monday, Feb. 25 and immediately began casting for this year’s production of “Hansel and Gretel.” Once casting was finished, Mountain Avenue students dedicated the rest of the week to rehearsals culminating on Saturday, March 2 with two performances at Rosemont Middle School. Admission was free.
Mountain Avenue parent Mimi Reichenbach has been involved with MCT for four years, acting as the primary organizer of bringing the program to the school. This was her final year, however, because her daughter Hannah will be graduating and attending Rosemont in the fall.
Reichenbach admits that every year she has concerns about the vigorous schedule and worries if the kids will be able to pull it all together in such a short amount of time.
“It’s pretty amazing to watch,” she said. “We all ask, ‘How is this ever going to get pulled off?’ And every year it gets pulled off. It’s a great formula that they have.”
MCT is one of Mountain Avenue’s most popular programs. Every year Reichenbach gets a waiting list of children who wish to participate; however, only 60 spots are available for the children.
Mountain Avenue is the only school in the Glendale district to host Missoula. With many arts programs being cut from school budgets, Reichenbach, with fellow parent and MCT volunteer Melody McCormick, encourages other schools to bring the performing arts program to their school.
“Right now I think the opportunity does not exist because people are not aware of [Missoula Children’s Theatre],” said McCormick.
Reichenbach said that it is fairly simple to bring the program to a school and that it doesn’t cost that much.
McCormick and Reichenbach stressed the excellent qualities the children gain from participating in the program. Confidence, support and teamwork are just a few Reichenbach mentioned – “things they don’t learn from their day to day curriculum,” she said.
“I think really it’s more about kids coming together and acting as a team and learning about how to follow directions, and making the play happen,” she said.
McCormick added that many of the children discover talents they never thought they possessed.
“Kids who didn’t know they could sing learn they can sing. Kids who didn’t know they could dance learn they can dance. Kids who are terrified about standing up in front of a crowd learn how to do it,” said McCormick.
Reichenbach’s daughter Hannah, a sixth grader, played a cook in this year’s production of “Hansel and Gretel.” She said that being on stage has helped her speak in front of large audiences.
“I really like dressing up in the costumes every year and I like performing in front of everybody,” Hannah said. “It’s really fun.”
For more information about MCT, visit www.mctinc.org. For more information about bringing MCT to a school, email Mimi Reichenbach at firstname.lastname@example.org.