HAYDEN — As local youth and staff from the Missoula Children’s Theatre prepared for Saturday’s performance of ‘The Pied Piper’ on Thursday, they agreed that the performing arts prepare you for the stage of life.
Homeschool junior Sarah Grove of Coeur d’Alene said thanks to performing in drama, she is confident about life. She was already an outspoken person, but participating in three prior plays made her stand up for what she was saying. Her sister Emilie, a homeschooled sophomore, related that performing helped her grow out of her native shyness and become more comfortable talking to people.
Sierra McCormick said she had always wanted to be in a play, but hadn’t until this month’s production. “I’m really excited to finally get the chance,” said the Coeur d’Alene resident. Lake City High School sophomore Carley Pratt said drama has also helped with being able to talk to people. It’s also a lot of fun. “It’s a vent for all the weird, wacky thoughts I have,” said Pratt.
Lakes Middle School eighth-grader Maia Funderburg started performing at age 3 and has more than a dozen productions under her belt. She said she liked being able to see things from her characters’ points of view. Drama “teaches me to come out of my shell,” she said.
Elizabeth Farley of the Hayden arts commission agreed. She began an accomplished career in performing arts at an MCT production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ years ago. “I ran the lights,” she said, laughing. “It was fun. I learned a lot.” She went on to pursue dance and theater during her youth, majored in the subjects at the University of Idaho, and was one of 20 dancers nationwide chosen to perform at an Olympic sports demonstration of ballet during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Performing changed her life for the better, said Farley.
“I learned a lot of discipline through the years in dance and theatre.” Getting up early and staying late for rehearsals, and other life skills she learned in the arts “really shaped me,” she said. She has spearheaded the effort to bring the performing arts to Hayden.
Another benefit of the performing arts is the community you become a part of, said Missoula Children’s Theatre tour actors/directors.
The Missoula Children’s Theatre sends out more than 40 teams of two with everything they need for a play packed in the back of a pickup truck, said Megan Hovinen of Cambridge, Minn. In six days, the MCT tour actors/directors cast 60 local schoolchildren in a customized version of well-known stories such as ‘The Pied Piper’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel’, hold 20 hours of rehearsals, and put on a full performance for local audiences.
The job requires the kind of multitasking only an elementary school teacher or homeschooling parent could love. Refocusing the attention of fidgeting kids, directing volunteers, giving hundreds of script cues to youth who can’t remember their lines, managing bathroom and snack breaks, rattling off every line of the script by heart, coordinating with parents and guardians, and more are part of the job in each city the teams visit. And once they finish the weeklong production in one town, they start the process all over again 24 hours later in a new locale. Hovinen and Madelyn Pyles of Macon, Ga., have put on ‘The Pied Piper’ in eight other Northwestern cities so far this summer.
“They have it down to a science,” said pianist Carolynn Salter of Hayden.
“It’s crazy but it’s amazing what the kids can do in a week if you give them the opportunity,” said Pyles.
No matter the challenge, Hovinen said it’s her passion for the arts that drives her. The dramatic productions she’s been a part of are like being part of a sports team. You create strong bonds with everyone supporting everyone else as you work towards a final goal, she said. “I love the community of it,” said Hovinen. “If I can ignite that love for drama in one kid, that’s success to me.”