Act Out, Get Creative at the Missoula Community Theatre

By BRIAN D’AMBROSIO, Media Relations Coordinator at MCT

The house lights dim. Hushed excitement builds as untested performers and savvy veterans await opening cues. Hours of rehearsal time and memorization lead to this split second. Show time at last.

If your curiosity has been piqued by these descriptions, then you may want to come and be a part of the Missoula Community Theatre.

Since 1977, the Missoula Community Theatre has strived to be an integral part of the city of Missoula’s artistic and cultural life. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with our organization, please allow us to reintroduce ourselves and explain the nuts and bolts of what we do – Missoula Community Theatre 101, if you will.

First things first, we are friendly to all.

“All auditions are open,” says MCT Artistic Director Joe Martinez. “We don’t precast. We want people to know that all are welcome. We invite and do want people without experience.”

Interested parties need to be aware that community theatre productions require teamwork. Despite the fact that individual characters or starring roles have the ability to make or break a production, the cast and crew must come together as a cohesive unit for any production to be successful. Members of the cast and crew not only rediscover the tenets of responsibility and time management, and adapt to the rigorous necessity of practice, but understand that individual efforts shape the completefabric.

“Community theatre is about building relationships,” says Executive Director of MCT Michael McGill. It is a strong benefit to actors, providing a community connection and a place for those who wish to develop their craft. The doors here are open to a wide cross section of people in the region. Even those with no theatrical experience can find a place where they belong.”

Context of Cooperation

Teamwork at Missoula Community Theatre means that you have to be ready to intervene and help another participant in rehearsals with a missed line or forgotten cue. It means developing a healthy amount of sensitivity to fellow cast members. Personal preferences and quirks no longer matter. Becoming your character in the larger context of cooperation is the greater purpose.

As they work to memorize their lines and develop their character, participants have the chance to help others and enhance their interpersonal skills.

Mark Heyka, chief meteorologist at NBC Montana, moved to Missoula in 1999, not knowing a single person.  One year later, he was still looking for a place to belong. He found acceptance at the Missoula Community Theatre.

“I auditioned for The Wizard of Oz,” says Heyka. “Being from Kansas, it was rather ironic that while Dorothy was trying to get back home, I was yearning to call Missoula home.  After that show, I was hooked on the magic of MCT and knew that it would be one of the reasons I would consider Missoula my home.  Ushering, being a cast member, it’s just so much fun to be a part of my community.  What a wonderful group of people.”

Friendships and Skills

Broadcast journalist and Missoula native Casey Chaloupek is one of the many actors who will make Camelot, the Missoula Community Theatre’s first show of the 2012-2013 season, a success.

“A college professor once told a friend and me,” Chaloupek says, “that if you go to see live theatre, and you don’t leave a changed person, it didn’t do its job. Live theatre should be able to reach to the soul of a person and help transform them for the better. MCT has given me that chance to explore and develop my interests and talents, and by doing so, I have been able to work with some of Missoula’s finest.  Being mentored by exceptional directors, choreographers, and musicians has been one of the most humbling experiences I have ever been part of.”

“I have been able to work with a diverse group of inspired actors and actresses,” says Chaloupek.  “They all share the same vision of producing an astonishing product to give back to the community.  In order to do that, the time and commitment for a production is immense.  Community theatre is not easy, but very rewarding.  The friendships I have made along the way at MCT are priceless, and the skills I have learned are invaluable.”Chaloupek has been involved with the Missoula Community Theatre for two seasons, forming friendships, making sacrifices, and discovering new talents.

Though her first show with MCT was in 1981, as an ‘apple seed’ in a Missoula Children’s Theatre production of Johnny Appleseed, Ann Bates only recently made her way to the

“We are completely exited to be a part of this production and look forward to seeing more MCT staffers in the weeks to come,” says Bates. “To be a part of Missoula Community Theatre at this time, and with this show, is truly a blessing and a full circle moment for me.”Missoula Community Theatre; she and her daughter will be part of the ensemble cast of MCT’s next production, Miracle on 34th Street The Musical. A southeastern Montana native, Bates’ oldest daughter has participated in six Missoula Children’s Theatre productions and she considers MCT an extension of her family.

Thirty-one years ago, Bates performed under the instruction of Tour Actor/Director Michael McGill, now MCT’s Executive Director and Director of Miracle on 34th Street The Musical. In November, she will join up with McGill once again.

“Now, here we are together, doing a musical adaptation of one of our favorite Christmas films,” says Bates.  “MCT’s commitment to the performing arts allow for numerous creative and technical expressions for our community of Missoula, the US, and beyond. The dedicated staff at MCT is extremely cognizant of this and fosters an environment and message that we all need the performing arts in our lives and communities- no matter what stage of life we are in.”

Finding Confidence, Acceptance

Throughout the course of a production, director Joe Martinez said that he can see the self-confidence grow in many of the cast members. Participants switch from being doubtful of their abilities, to gaining self-assurance in their own talents. McGill and Martinez say that it’s a thrill to see people who have no prior acting experience, win a role, and excel in it. Often those who struggle for acceptance in other realms of life find encouragement as a member of the cast.

“Right from the start of the audition, we establish a good comfort level,” says Martinez. “In fact, with regard to auditions, we keep it light and more of a group thing. In general, we set things up in a way to ensure that there is no feeling of failure here.”

Community Theatre: Not Just AboutActing

Becoming a thespian is not the only way for people to get involved with the Missoula Community Theatre. From ticket taking to lighting, to sound operation and concessions, there is plenty to do behind or near the scenes. Sets and props need to be carried and adjusted; the spotlight needs to be manned, and lighting has to be correctly placed. No matter how one decides to contribute, we will be appreciative of your presence.

“We respect people’s time,” says Martinez. “We do our best to be flexible with people’s time, while balancing that with the need to put on a quality production.”

For more information about becoming a part of the Missoula Community Theatre, call (406) 728-1911, visit www.facebook.com/missoulacommunitytheatre, or email mct@mctinc.org