Directors earn role to represent MCT around U.S., world

The Missoulian’s Martin Kidston wrote this great profile of Missoula Children’s Theatre touring actors Samantha Cook and Meagan Wiltshire. They talked about their recent adventures and misadventures in Bahrain.

At the start of summer, Samantha Cook and Meagan Wiltshire would have been hard pressed to find Bahrain on a map, let alone talk about it beyond the common stereotypes.

But when the two veteran members of Missoula Children’s Theatre returned this week from the island nation in the Persian Gulf, they did so as diplomats, wise to the ways of that distant culture.

“It was pretty wild,” said Wiltshire, seated Tuesday at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts. “It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It was strange and kind of surreal.”

Wiltshire, of Livingston, and Cook, of Missoula, were one of five teams from MCT sent around the world this summer to lead children from military families in theatrical performances of “Robin Hood.”

The shows are contracted through the Department of Defense, giving children who often jump from base to base – following parents through distant deployments – a chance to test their talents in the performing arts.

While MCT has taken on a decidedly international flavor in recent years, sending teams abroad isn’t something the company takes lightly. Those selected for the task view themselves as diplomats, both for the company and the country in general.

“Whenever we go out, whether it’s international or local, MCT does a good job of reminding us we’re ambassadors wherever we go,” said Cook. “We already have that ingrained in us that we’re representing something greater than ourselves.”

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In June 2012, Amy Sisk of The Missoulian and photographer Michael Gallacher teamed up for a simply remarkable spread about MCT’s International Tour training. Below is the first 250 words and a link to the article, which includes great photography and video interviews.

Emma Merlo prances around the old school room, hands held to her chin, fingers wiggling as she emulates a raccoon whose short, stubby arms can’t quite extend into the graceful lines of a ballerina.

The 21-year-old darts in and out of the forest backdrops, following her new coworkers as she practices the raccoon ballet scene in “Red Riding Hood,” the musical she will soon teach to hundreds of eager children around the country.

“Sometimes we’ll act like we don’t know what’s going on,” Merlo said. “We’ll pretend to be the little raccoon who has no idea where he’s going because we’ll have to direct him on stage.”

Early Thursday morning, she and her tour partner will pull out of the Missoula Children’s Theatre parking lot in a red Ford F-150 bound for Tennessee. There, she will have six days to cast more than 50 children, teach them their steps and lines and execute an hourlong performance for the community.

Then she’ll drive to Georgia and do it all over again. Next comes Alabama. After that, she’ll head north to Wisconsin, Michigan and Kentucky before making the 2,000-mile trip back to Missoula, truck bed stuffed to the brim with props, costumes, scripts and backdrops.


Merlo is one of 94 tour directors who will travel across the United States and overseas, as far away as U.S. military bases in South Korea and Turkey, this summer on Missoula Children’s Theatre’s international tour. After two weeks of training, pairs of tour directors embark on a three-month journey over mountains, plains and seas to communities filled with children eager to learn the art of stage performance in a single fast-paced week.
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Missoula Community Theatre (MCT) presents “Once Upon A Mattress” January 20-29 at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts.

Directed by Teresa Waldorf (University of Montana’s School of Theatre and Dance), with music direction by Gregory Boris (MCT), and choreography by Lisa Deer (On Center Dance), this family-friendly, musical comedy is based upon Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale, “The Princess and the Pea”—only this version is chock-full of wonderfully wacky characters performed by talented Missoula actors.

The story begins in a small, medieval kingdom where Prince Dauntless (Alex Saint) must find a wife. He has had twelve prospects thus far, but none that his mother, Queen Aggravain (Angela Billadeau), approve of. The ladies and lords of the court are personally invested in finding the prince a wife, and hopeful that the Queen will approve of the “lucky thirteenth” contender. The score by composer and writer Mary Rodgers (“Free to Be . . . You And Me,” “Freaky Friday”) and lyricist Marshall Barer (“Here I Come to Save The Day,” theme of “Mighty Mouse”) adds depth to the show through beguiling songs about royal courtship.

“Once Upon A Mattress” performances will be January 20-29 at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts with an adapted performance for those living on the autism spectrum held on January 24. Ticket prices range from $10 to $21, are available by phone at (406) 728-7529, online, or in person at 200 North Adams Street, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on performance dates one hour prior to show times.


Media Contact: Amy Farrington, publicity | (406) 728-1911

About Missoula Community Theatre
An extension project of MCT, Inc., Missoula Community Theatre provides local community members of all ages the opportunity to participate in the performing arts. On average during each community theatre season, more than 650 roles are filled by local actors, singers, dancers, musicians, technical crew, and other volunteers.

Local theatergoers might want to remember the names of Brandon Price and Eric Wills. The two actors – one a recent Missoula transplant, the other a local high-school student – play relatively small roles in Missoula Community Theatre’s new production of the classic musical, “She Loves Me,” which opens Friday night at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts. Read the Missoulian article.