Theatre offers joys, delights, and benefits

The benefits of participation in theatre have been extolled in this column many times in the past, but Missoula Children’s Theatre just completed its annual residency in our community, and the joy and sense of accomplishment engendered by MCT’s Sleeping Beauty is reason enough to reiterate these truths. Ever since Darke County Endowment for the Arts first granted funds enabling Darke County Center for the Arts to bring this blessing to our community almost two decades ago, local youth have partaken of these joys, reveling in the thrill of working together with others to create never-before-seen moments that will never be seen again. If you attended one of the performances last Saturday, you understand what I am saying; if you did not — well, you shoulda been there.

A week ago last Sunday, MCT’s team of actor/directors Dan Lafferty and Nick Schommer drove a little red truck containing everything needed for a play over many miles for 12 hours in one day to arrive at Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall in time for Monday morning auditions. At these tryouts, 36 eager students (fewer than usual, but enough to mount a fully-realized musical production) responded to Dan and Nick’s directives, expressing emotions, mouthing lines, singing songs, and within two hours, everyone knew what role they would be playing in the show. And let me reiterate — in theatre, there are NO small parts. Everyone is dependent upon everyone else to do their part contributing to the whole, a truism (which also applies to real life) that is reaffirmed on a daily basis as lines are learned, scenes are blocked and rehearsed, and a script is brought to life by the troupe of actors working together to make it all happen.

Once again, the MCT team was masterful in their ability to help each participant shine individually while creating a cohesive whole to entertain and delight audiences. Dan, who hails from Kalamazoo, Mich., didn’t get into theatre until he was in his 20s, participating in high school football and then majoring in English literature at Michigan State; but after going to a show at a tiny black box community theater in his home town, he developed a deep interest in and love of the theatrical arts which, combined with his passion for working with kids, led him to Missoula Children’s Theatre.

Nick majored in music and arts management at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, not far from his home town of West Bend, Wisc., where he first appeared in a show as an eighth-grader. He went on to act in Grease, Seussical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Godspell when in high school, but in college, focused on music until his final year, when he was invited to New York City to study with Broadway actors, choreographers, and casting directors. This experience motivated him to stay in college an extra year, where in addition to arts management courses, he also took acting and dancing classes. He then took part in a stressful, one-and-a half-minute theatre audition in St. Louis for more than thirty acting companies who evaluated his talents, leading to his being hired by MCT just before graduation in 2017.

Both Nick and Dan appreciated the talent level of local students auditioning for Sleeping Beauty, saying that it is unusual to have so many youngsters capable of playing a major role, while also finding all of the kids fun to work with and easy to teach. They were also impressed with the majestic beauty of Memorial Hall, saying that they hoped everyone in the community appreciates the treasure that it is. And they both are proud to be associated with MCT, bringing the magic of theatre to many who would not otherwise enjoy the opportunity to be involved in this character-building activity.

Through participation in MCT, students learn life skills that serve them throughout their lives — discipline, hard work, interpersonal skills, and a sense of community that instills confidence and a sense of responsibility. And they can take great pride in having contributed to an entertaining theatrical event that brought joy and delight to others while creating memories to last a lifetime for themselves.

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By Marilyn Delk

DCCA News

Marilyn Delk is the former executive 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.