A twist on an old classic comes to town

By Jeff Smith

Hill City students rehearse a song about cleaning up during the Missoula Children’s Theatre week. All of the students in the cast were able to take part in a song and have a line in the play.

When there is a pretty girl that stumbles into a small cabin in the woods full of dwarves it can only be “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

That was the production that so many children worked hard for last week in Hill City. It was fun, exciting and a few long days.

Last Thursday was the first time the students saw the set design; the performances followed on Sept. 14.

Annie Liskow with the Missoula Children’s Theatre said the hardest part for the children is memorizing lines.

“They don’t have a lot of time to memorize the lines which we understand,”Liskow said.

The Missoula Children’s Theatre version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” was different from the Disney version. All of the productions that Missoula Children’s Theatre do are a little bit different from the original fairy tales or other stories. They need to be adapted for copyright reasons and to make sure all of the students in the production have lines and take part in a song. The students came to the high school right after school last week and some had to rehearse the play for four hours.

After the rehearsal on Sept. 13 Liskow reminded the students to go over lines and blocking. She also told the group not to shout at each other that it’s their line or to make others feel embarrassed if they forgot their line.

“Whisper it to them quietly,” Liskow said.

She reminded them that she wanted them to have fun but they needed to be more respectful.

This year was the first time that Missoula Children’s Theatre has come to Hill City in seven years.

“Hopefully we will be able to start coming every year or every other year,” Liskow said.

In 2011, the contact person for the Missoula Children’s Theatre moved, and when they moved, they didn’t have anybody else who contacted them.

Jamie Duprey remembers being a part of Missoula Children’s Theatre productions when she was little and wanted to bring it back to Hill City.

Duprey said the students did an amazing job at the performance for the elementary school on Friday afternoon.

“It was fun for the whole elementary that got to come,” Duprey said.

It was nice because they had a big, engaged audience.

Duprey was also helping with the music last week and played the piano, which is required for any Missoula Children’s Theatre production.

Duprey said the week was exciting and auditions worked out because there was not really any way knowing who could come. There could have been roles for more students as the maximum is 60. Duprey said they are pretty flexible and can make just about any amount of students work.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids who may not be involved in something else and opens up their whole world to arts in a new way,” Duprey said.

There were 33 children in the play. Turner McVey was “Grouch” and he liked that he was able to have a shovel as a prop since he was a dwarf.

Jazzy DuBois played “Whiny” and said that she liked being a dwarf and having a prop.

She really wanted to be her character and liked that the part was more than just one line.

Naiya Ginsbach was Snow White in the play. She said the two actors, Annie and Ashley, were nice and she enjoyed being in the play. She also liked that she was cast as Snow White.    

Liskow said the students learn a lot of like skills during the play production process. She said they learn the importance of being in a team, commitment and being part of something that is put together in a fast amount of time.

“They have to dedicate time for rehearsals, time to memorize lines and time for going over things. It really gives them a strong sense of commitment,” Liskow said.

“They get to work together and make a final product.”

During the process the students are able to release a lot of creativity. 

“We allow them to make character choices and really develop their character,” Liskow said.

On Monday, Sept. 10, the students auditioned and then after that the students went right into a two-hour rehearsal.

Some age groups will be there for just two hours but a lot of the students were there for the entire four hours.

Liskow thinks it is really important for children to be in the arts at a young age.

“There are some places where they don’t get that opportunity,” Liskow said.

“Sometimes we go to very small towns and they don’t have a high school theater or they don’t have a theatre program so this is their only opportunity to be in a show, a production and have the arts in their life.”

Liskow said there are scientific studies that show that students in arts have higher developmental skills, especially in math.

“There is a direct correlation between music and math. It lights up the same part of your brain,” Liskow said.

Being involved in some type of artistic endeavor helps with communication and problem solving skills, too.

After the productions wrap up the two actors go to another town. They have a couple of days usually as a wash day for all of the costumes.

Liskow and her tour partner will go to Nebraska for a couple of weeks and then they will be in Montana for seven weeks. She said they will be on the road for 10-12 weeks in the fall and then they will take a Christmas break. After that is over they will restart their typical schedule. The summer is the off-season but other than that they are always on the go.

Liskow has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre and has a minor in dance and vocal training. She is also a certified prop master, electrician and carpenter.

“I really wanted to make sure I could educate kids through theatre and make sure they have fun,” Liskow said.

There is normally 30-40 teams of two on the road at one time working with Missoula Theatre Company.

“We all have different shows,” Liskow said.

They go to all 50 states and 17 different countries. The actors travel in a red F-150 and they can fit everything they bring in there. On top of costumes and a set they also bring their own lighting and sound system to use if it is needed.