By BRIAN D’AMBROSIO, Media Relations Coordinator at MCT
In his short lifetime, Dalton Keith, 13, has played Robin Hood, “King Backwards” in Snow White, Lancelot, a lovable wolf in Red Riding Hood, Toto in The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan, and even a gnome.
His first encounter with the Missoula Children’s Theatre stretches back to 2009, when MCT tour-actor directors visited his school to deliver a live theatrical performance in a single fast-paced week.
Last week, he debuted in his first Missoula Community Theatre presentation, tackling the role of “Tom of Warick” in Camelot.
“I’ve been with MCT for a few years already,” says Dalton. “I have nothing but good experiences here and it’s always been fun. As Tom of Warick, I have a nice one-on-one scene with King Arthur and a lot of time onstage with him.”
Dalton’s part in Camelot is unique, and not just because of his age: Dalton lives and attends school 80 miles east of Missoula in Lincoln. In an effort to accommodate his schedule, Lincoln granted the eighth-grader an excused absence from its regular class schedule.
Perhaps what is most special to Dalton is that the Broadway classic gives him the chance to participate in a show with his grandmother, Jeanne Ann Wilson. That participation includes an extended stay at grandma’s house in Missoula. “It’s a pretty cool experience,” Dalton says.
For Jeanne Ann – a 17-show veteran of the Missoula Community Theatre and Business Marketing Director at MCT – the opportunity to go through the theatrical process with her grandson is more than cool, it is transcendent.
“I have to say that being in Camelot with my grandson tops them all,” says Jeanne Ann. “This is something neither of us thought would ever happen since Dalton lives in Lincoln. Being the smart, studious young man that he is, he had all his lines memorized before he came to his first rehearsal, only seven days before we opened. After a few rehearsals, he told me he felt like he was now having a conversation with the king in his scene, and he loved it.”
Indeed, Dalton has many great attributes, says Executive Director of MCT, Michael McGill, who originally met and interacted with Dalton at MCT’s performing arts camps. “He has worked hard,” says McGill. “He has a great attitude. He has done everything that we’ve asked him to do. He is a good example of someone caring enough about MCT to continue to participate with us.”
McGill describes Dalton as courageous.
“What I mean by courage, is that he has the courage to take new steps and to graduate to different levels, and the courage to put himself out there in front of everyone. Taking these kinds of steps is a big part of helping young people experience success.”
Dalton says that community theatre is “more intense” than anything else he has ever participated in at MCT. He thanks Camelot’s director Joe Martinez, who worked with Dalton on musical numbers at camp, for his patience and mentorship. Martinez’s mentorship emphasizes MCT’s mission of developing and nurturing confidence and self-esteem in children through the performing arts.
“We provide safety,” says McGill. “Not just physical safety, but emotional safety. When kids are involved with MCT, they need to be supported and backed up. And it’s important to us that we do that.”
Dalton is quite responsive when it comes to taking positive counsel to heart. Just a few weeks shy of his 14th birthday, Dalton has proved to be a reliable, mature individual. “Dalton performed last summer in Robin Hood,” says director Joe Martinez. “He was so genuine in the role that when it came time to cast Camelot, I knew he could deliver in the role. It’s one scene with King Arthur, but he handles it with charm and a genuineness that melts the audiences’ heart at each performance.”
And it’s not just the audiences’ heart that he has touched.
“I was brought to tears when I saw him deliver his performance to an audience for the first time,” says Jeanne Ann. “It made being in the show even more special for me, and our family is so proud of him for following his dreams. We both hope we get the chance to do this again in the future.”
Come see Dalton as Tom of Warick in Camelot at the Missoula Community Theatre, October 24-28, 200 North Adams Street, Missoula. For more information, call (406) 728-PLAY or visit the MCT Facebook page.