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Children?s Theatre comes to JBER
Children working with members of the Missoula Children's Theatre perform on stage during a "Beauty Lou and the Country Beast" rehearsal at the Elmendorf-side theater on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska July 20. The show was arranged and put on by the Missoula Children's Theatre and also provided shows on July 13 on the Fort Richardson side. The theatre provides performances including comical twists on original fairy tales and other popular stories. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)
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Children’s Theatre comes to JBER

Posted 7/26/2012   Updated 7/26/2012 Email story   Print story


by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

7/26/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Missoula Children's Theatre visited JBER to provide children the opportunity to perform for their friends and family.

The performances were hosted July 13 at the JBER-Richardson theater and July 20 at the JBER-Elemendorf theater.

"I heard about (MCT) while going to college in Montana and I started volunteering," said Jennifer Wills, one of two tour director/actors and native of Missoula, Mont. "It's a great program, so I said, 'hey, I want to be a part of that.' It wasn't planned; it just happened."
The Children's Theatre isn't new to the military; they have visited numerous bases around the world to give children the opportunity to perform.

"We've been to a lot of different Army and Air Force bases," Wills said. "We're going to our first Navy base this summer, so we've been to a lot of bases. We go to lots of school districts, both civilian and on military bases; they bring us in as an after school program during the school year and theatre companies will bring us in during the summer, like a day camp program similar to what we're doing here.

"The military is a really big supporter; we have a good relationship with them," she said.
While Wills has no military experience, she and her colleague, Jeremy Cunningham, have military in the family.

Wills has many servicemembers in her family, as does Cunningham.

"We have a very large number of weeks in which we go to the military," Cunningham said. "All of our overseas and fly tours are almost exclusively on bases overseas."

The play they chose for the children to perform is "Beauty Lou and the Country Beast."

"We're doing Beauty Lou and the Country Beast, it's sort of a country twist on the original story, and it's very unique," said Wills. "There are about 30 original shows based on a classic fairytales or class stories, written by staff at our home office in Missoula. All of these stories are written for up to 60 children to perform."

The plays provide unique perspectives on many original fairy tales.

"All of our plays are twists on original fairy tales," Cunningham said. "They are quite a bit different from the original story. Even if somebody is familiar with the original material already, it's definitely not going to be the same story.

"One of the stories is the Princess and the Pea, and that original story is about three quarters of a page long; our script is about 50 pages long. A story can take 50 to 60 kids, depending on what the age break-down is and who shows up. We can always adjust numbers; for instance this week we have 10 kids and last week on the Fort Richardson side we had 24.

"There were two different shows, two different casts, so none of the kids from last week are participating this week. The first show had about 50 people in the audience, the second tended to be smaller."

"It's mainly marketed towards friends and family, that's who usually comes to the shows. But I've been to places where there have been 200 to 300 people in the audience.

Sometimes, we perform for schools where there's 600 elementary school kids coming to the show, so it varies," he said.

Among the children performing were sisters Delany and Darby Glenn.

"Theater is my passion; it's really fun," said Delany, a 12 year old student at Central Middle School in Anchorage and daughter of Tech. Sgt. Jason Glenn, 732nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

"I am playing older Bobby Joe and a country folk; we play random people doing fun dances. I've done it two other times before this at Moody Air Force Base with the Missoula theatre. We've also done 'Jack and the Beanstalk' and 'King Arthur's Quest,' he said.

"I like to be able to work with cast mates and make new friends. We get to be constructive working together. It's just a lot of fun, we do a lot of scenes and dances and stuff.

"There are lots of jokes in the plays, it's really fun. I would love to continue on in theatre. We get funny people providing these plays for us, all these cool costumes and sets and stuff, it's really enjoyable," she said.

If able, Delany said she'd love to get more involved.

"I'd love to do a summer camp program," she said. "I love to do anything to get out of my house and enjoy myself. I know everyone else around here enjoys it a lot, and we've been having tons of fun. My parents catch every show; they are really supportive of it."
It isn't unusual for children to find a love for acting through these programs.

"We've noticed a lot of kids finding a lot for theater doing this," Wills said. "We've got one that's going to school for opera that's from a military family. We met them in Portugal; she's hooked and is going to college now for opera and vocal performance."

The Missoula Children's Theatre accepts children of ages ranging from 5 to 18. The child must have been through a full year of schooling in an organized, structured environment, Wills said.

In the fall, children in kindergarten through twelfth grade are welcome.

"It definitely opens the doors [to a future career] that they can do this," the director and actor said. "If they want to go to a camp or a new next step prep program, there's an audition and they just have to ask."

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