Montana traveling theater group visits Oysterponds School

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03/13/2013 2:30 PM |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Missoula Children’s Theatre Program directors Melody Waters (left) and Ashlan Stephenson audition Oysterponds students Monday for this year’s play, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’

A line of about 47 Oysterponds students wrapped around the gym Monday afternoon, starting with the tallest student and ending with the shortest kindergartner, in a gathering with an unusual purpose.

They might all know each other, but still the youngsters introduced themselves.

“I’m Addison and I’m 11!” exclaimed sixth-grader Addison Terry. She’s also Snow White, having landed the lead role in the school’s production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Monday’s gathering was in fact auditions for the Missoula Children’s Theatre, which returned to Orient for a second year. The Montana-based traveling troupe provides everything needed — costumes, props, lighting and sound — to produce a play in just five days.

Missoula directors Ashlan Stephenson and Melody Waters believe students will enjoy working on this year’s play because it’s full of jokes and has a witty plot line that includes audience participation. The group has toured the nation and other countries since 1970 putting on original adaptations of classic children’s stories and fairy tales.

Ms. Stephenson said students succeed in learning their lines within a week because the program has a strong structure with a lot of repetition and specific goals.

“I love how kids learn quickly and how they memorize their lines early on,” she said. “We don’t overload them and give them only their part to work on so they can focus.”

Last year, 53 students performed in “The Wiz of the West” with red cowboy boots replacing ruby slippers.

Each year, 47 Missoula teams visits 1,200 communities and work with 65,000 student cast members. Since January, Ms. Stephenson and Ms. Waters have put on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in Rochester, N.Y., Connecticut, Massachusetts and Kentucky.

Oysterponds parent Lynette Crowley worked with the district to get the Missoula program into the school after her two sons had an enjoyable experience with it a couple of years ago at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. She said the program helps students develop self-esteem, confidence, creativity, goals and social and communication skills through performing arts.

“Most of these students have never gotten up on stage before,” Ms. Crowley said. “It will be an intense week, but very rewarding.”

The students are meeting every day after school and will perform at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the Greenport High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for children.

Ms. Stephenson and Ms. Waters said they’re quite excited to present the play at Greenport’s newly restored auditorium.

“It’s beautiful,” Ms. Waters said. “We were so happy with the space. We usually have to put on our plays in a gym.”

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