Missoula Children’s Theatre’s stated mission is to develop lifeskills in children through participation in the performing arts. Darke County Center for the Arts’ chosen theme for the 2017-2018 season is “Arts Count.” Christina Heagney and Ben Hermann, the acting/directing team in charge of DCCA’s presentation of a week-long MCT residency at Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall in Greenville, not only embrace the value of those precepts, but also see them demonstrated on a daily basis.
Both Ben and Christina developed a love of theatre early on in their young lives, Ben as a junior in high school and Christina while still in elementary school. Bozeman, Montana native Christina finds it exciting to observe youngsters enthralled by theatre who understand the importance of the arts as they learn and grow during their participation in an MCT production. Ben, who hails from Texas and briefly considered a career in law, admits that his worst day in his current job is better than anything else he’s ever done, and knows that he belongs in the theatre world.
On Monday of this week, the dynamic young duo held auditions for MCT’s Aladdin (which is NOT the Disney version, as they pointed out to the assembled hopeful cast members.) On Saturday of this week, a fully-realized production of Aladdin starring 60 local 1st through 12th-grade students will be presented for two performances on stage at magnificent St. Clair Memorial Hall!
Christina and Ben will lead rehearsals, teach songs and choreography, construct a set, fit costumes, and meet many more demands to assure that this amazing feat can be accomplished in one short week.
Ben said that everything is almost exactly as they learned it would be during two weeks of intensive training at the MCT headquarters in Missoula, Montana.
“However, nothing can prepare you for the reality. The most amazing part is that, since nobody has told these kids that they can’t, their capacity to comprehend everything it takes to do a show in a week’s time is unbounded,” he said.
Christina said that watching the significant change in youngsters which takes place during the week warms her heart.
“Seeing them shine on stage, realizing that it’s their turn, and then triumphantly revel in the thrill of what they have accomplished is very, very special,” she commented.
One of the few down sides to their current job occurs when they have more youngsters auditioning than roles to be assigned. On Monday, Christina and Ben went to great lengths to make clear that those who were not cast were not rejected because they had no talent or were not liked, but simply because they did not fit into an available role.
“I feel like crying for them, because I know how discouraging it can be, as I’ve often experienced it myself,” she confessed. “But I know that such rejections can also be a learning experience providing valuable life lessons and personal growth.”
If past experience with DCCA’s MCT theatre residence is any guide, Aladdin will be cleverly scripted, include delightful music and charming choreography, and offer each participant a moment to shine. The week of rehearsals will create meaningful bonds between youngsters and instill a strong work ethic and enhance interpersonal skills. According to Ben, the show’s over-arching message is that although the characters come from many places and varying walks of life, their differences make them strong as members of one cohesive community. Hmm, that concept pretty much sums up the wonder of the world of theatre—everyone works together, bringing their individual strengths and weaknesses to the project, with the contribution of each participant, regardless of the size of their role, being essential to reach a common goal.
You can partake of this joyous wonder. Aladdin will be presented tomorrow, August 5, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; tickets are only $5, and will be available at the door. You’ll have a good time, but even more importantly, you will be demonstrating that the arts count by supporting youngsters who are developing life skills through the arts—a glorious convergence for all concerned.
Marilyn Delk is a director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.