DCCA News: Lasting Connections


The positive energy engendered when Darke County Center for the Arts brings Missoula Children’s Theatre to our community is only one of the many positives that accrue throughout and beyond this lively week of intense activity providing local students with hands-on theatre experience.

All sorts of “Connections” (the theme for DCCA’s 2016-17 season) thrive during this MCT residency which will result in two remarkable performances of MCT’s Alice In Wonderland at Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall. Theatre itself connects the past to the present, as does the beloved Lewis Carroll work upon which this year’s production is based; and in another connection between the past and the present, Alice In Wonderland was the very first MCT show presented by DCCA over a decade ago!

Abby Kohake and Jay Echols, this season’s MCT directors/actors who are in charge of the 60-plus local students chosen for roles in Alice In Wonderland, recognize diverse connections established during their life-journeys that not only link them together, but also with the MCT mission to develop lifeskills in children through participation in the performing arts, and ultimately to each student with whom they interact as they travel from town to town in a little red truck packed with everything it takes to create a fully realized musical production except for the cast. Even though they produce the same show all summer long, new actors and a different audience each week create a unique experience connecting all those who have gone before and will come after—generations of participants in a show that seems to be forever self-renewing and relevant.

Abby grew up with a strong interest in music, but also “had a flair for the theatrical” which led her to a degree in musical theatre. Jay attended an arts magnet school throughout his elementary and secondary education, but knowing the uncertainty of regular employment as an actor, achieved his college degree in mathematics. However, throughout his college career, he remained involved in theatre, and upon graduation, decided to pursue his “fun thing” for real.

At a recent edition of the United Professional Theatre Auditions in Memphis, Tennessee, Abby and Jay, along with hundreds of other aspiring actors, were given 90 seconds to show their stuff before scores of theatre companies. There they connected with MCT staff and executives who saw not only theatrical talent but also an ability to relate to, mentor, and supervise youngsters to create a fulfilling experience with the arts for all concerned, thereby happily landing year-long contracts with Missoula Children’s Theatre.

The duo has connected as a team, depending upon each other not only on stage but also for support and understanding as they deal with new situations on a regular basis. This connection was strongly in evidence during MCT auditions at St. Clair Memorial Hall, which in many ways resemble the professional tryouts Abby and Jay endured in Memphis. The aspiring young local actors assembled on stage were given clear guidelines, and then spent two hours striving to demonstrate their ability to meet the stated requirements as well as to, each in his/her own distinct fashion, successfully portray the play’s characters on stage.

Abby and Jay also connected with those eager auditioners, obviously wanting each student to succeed. Although they have no prior knowledge of the youngsters assembled, they excel at identifying in the participants the characteristics demanded by each role. They are committed to creating a great experience for everyone involved, knowing that the rewards can have an impact lasting for a lifetime. They say that they really enjoy their job, which is to help kids grow through the arts, fulfilling MCT’s mission almost each and every moment of their work day, making connections that will impact lives now and well into the future.

Alice In Wonderland will be performed at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. this coming Saturday at Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall in Greenville. You can connect with the wonder of theatre and much more by attending this once and forever event.


By Marilyn Delk


Marilyn Delk is a director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

No posts to display