The Daily Evergreen

House of candy

BY CATHERINE KRUSE | Evergreen theater reporter

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For the entertainment of the populous, a Halloween horror story with wicked witches, raging Rascals, and a meal made with the flesh of little children will be told. Such is the story of Hansel and Gretel.

This weekend, the Missoula Children’s Theatre will perform its take on the Hansel and Gretel story, using actors and actress from right here in Pullman.

“Courtney and I tour every week to a new town across the U.S. and teach up to 60 kids,” said actor and director Erik Montague. “Right now there are 25 separate teams who are doing this exact same thing in the country and Canada.”

Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT) travels to all 50 states and 17 different countries, holding auditions, rehearsals, and performances within a single week.

The MCT version of “Hansel and Gretel” tells of two modern-day kids, Hank and Gretchen, down on their luck for not being able to go to camp. They fall asleep reading the story of “Hansel and Gretel” and are swept into the world of the story.

This is the first time Montague and fellow actor and director Courtney Kirby have come to Pullman, and the first time MCT has come to the area. They held auditions last Monday, where children from 5 to 14 years old came.

At auditions, the directors took time to ask kids questions and get to know them. Then they explained how things would work in the show and different acting techniques.

The kids seemed to enjoy the audition activities, such as saying a single line with their own accents and personality. These lines ranged from “Don’t be such a bore” to “Look over there, a giant armadillo!”

“(The directors) are fun. They try and keep us happy and keep us coordinated,” said Lincoln Middle School seventh grader Jacey Dishon, who plays Granny.

“I was really scared my voice would sound bad during my solo,” Dishon said. “Now I’m feeling more confident.”

The kids work with the directors for four hours every evening until the opening day, Montague said. That’s 20 hours of rehearsal spent learning an hour-long musical.

Montague said the reason they do the shows in such a short amount of time is because it can be done. It also gives the young actors and actresses a chance to get a little snippet of theater experience while also being able to continue with other after school activities, he said.

“It’s crazy what these kids are able to do,” Montague said.

Moses Plemons, a  Franklin Elementary second grader playing one of the Rascals, said his favorite part is scaring Hansel and Gretel with the rest of the Rascals. The Rascals make up the group of witch’s minions who live up to their names, playing tricks and only saying “sorry” when absolutely forced to, Plemons said.

“We’re just scaring people and running around and saying ‘Aaaahhhhh!’” Plemons said.

MCT provides the piano accompanist, costumes, props, set, and in some cases its own lighting and sound, lugging it every week to a new location in the back of a Ford F150, Montague said.

Although the performance is put together all in a single week, Dishon said nothing feels rushed. It can be stressful sometimes, but it’s still an enjoyable experience, she said.

“I really like to play Granny,” she said. “I think me and Granny are really similar. (She’s) fun and all of my friends tell me I’m fun.”

Montague said it’s been a wonderful experience working with the kids on the show. They’re all focused and have good energy that adds life to the show, such as the ridiculously cheesy yet really fun gingerbread ballet, he said.

“It’s really fun to be on a big stage with big curtains,” Plemons said. “(I’m) a little nervous, (but) I’ll be less nervous when the show comes.”

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House of candy